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From cheese and peaches to bridges and highways, every city has its own claim to fame. But in the U.S., a country ranked as one of the most generous in the world, a giving spirit stands taller than any landmark.
The World Giving Index is an annual report which ranks the world’s countries and cities on their charity work. Authors investigate whether there is a culture of volunteerism in the area, how much time these volunteers devote to their pro bono pursuits, and how much of their annual income goes toward helping the needy, before assigning a grade.
These three cities passed with flying colors:
1. Des Moines, IA
Des Moines has become known through its old motto as a “place to grow.” But over the past few decades, for many residents and companies, it has become a place to give.
In an analysis of 366 cities across the U.S., nearly 40% of Des Moines residents were found to devote their free time to helping the needy, with volunteers spending an average of just over 40 hours every year on altruistic pursuits.
It’s not just residents lending a helping hand. Companies are now working together with the public to raise large sums for local charities. For example, the Principal Charity Classic raised more than $2 million in donations for Iowa children’s charities in 2016.
This level of generosity has turned Des Moines into an outlier in the state, which has consistently languished near the middle of the World Giving Index report’s rankings in the U.S., which placed the state under the “richest and least charitable” category.
While it’s tough to pinpoint why the city is so far ahead of its counterparts elsewhere in the state, experts and stakeholders suggest that the wide range of volunteering opportunities and steady stream of corporate sponsorships make it easy to get involved with the cause of their choice.
2. Provo, UT
In a state that has consistently dominated the World Giving Index report’s annual rankings, Provo is the heart and soul of Utah’s generous populous. The report found that almost two-thirds of the city’s residents volunteered during the past calendar year, with city dwellers donating an average of 13.9 percent of their annual income to charity.
While many factors are driving volunteerism and donations in the city, Brigham Young University – which actively encourages its students to volunteer with the Center for Service and Learning – has played a key role in bolstering the teeming ranks of Provo’s good Samaritans. Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s 2015 challenge to residents to pledge at least 10 hours of free time to volunteer work annually has also resulted in a notable spike in volunteerism.
3. Boulder, CO
Situated at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, not even the area’s looming rock formations can overshadow Boulder’s giving spirit. The most generous city in Colorado has fought hard for the honor, with residents giving up 51.8 hours of their free time every year to keep their hometown near the top of the World Giving Index report’s rankings.
Much of the city’s success is attributed to Colorado Gives, an online network that helps connect more than 2,300 Colorado nonprofits with potential donors and volunteers. And who said giving isn’t good for the soul? National Geographic concluded that the happiest people in America could be found right here in the People’s Republic of Boulder.