America may seem divided — rich versus poor, left versus right, rural versus urban — but one theme is consistent across the nation: We are a charitable population.
The Barna Group, a Ventura, California-based organization that conducts research on faith, culture and leadership, has looked into donations to charities and nonprofits (including churches) by percentage of population. The group analyzed data from telephone and online interviews, with more than 76,000 adults in Nielsen-designated market areas who were interviewed over a decade.
The research shows that while many communities across the U.S. vary in geography, beliefs and socioeconomic conditions, they share a desire to give. The following is not a ranking of the cities that give the most in absolute dollar terms, but the Barna Group research does give a good sense of which local populations stand out as being among America's most generous.
Ninety-two percent of the adult population of this market area (which Nielsen views as a single market) has made some form of charitable donation. While there's certainly room for overlap, churches were the big winners here. Eighty-seven percent of the adults said they gave specifically to churches.
(Pictured: Students from ESC Region 19 Head Start who creatively fundraised money in the community on behalf of United Way of El Paso County. The check is presented annually to the United Way Kids' Way Fund to be allocated to programs from local charities that directly impact youth.)
This area of the Bluegrass State was right behind the Lone Star State's Western-most city in overall giving, with 91 percent donating to charities and non-profits. Like El Paso, churches played a big role in that, with 84 percent saying they had donated to houses of worship.
(Pictured: Food stacked inside the pantry at the Catholic Action Center, a charity soup kitchen for impoverished and homeless persons, in Lexington, Kentucky.)
The Charleston-Huntington area's 90 percent donation rate is even more impressive when you factor in the overall socio-economic status of West Virginia's capital. Barna research found that 9 percent of the local population was considered upscale (with annual household income of $75,000 or more and occupied by someone with a college degree), versus 15 percent who were classified downscale (annual household income of less than $20,000 per year and no college degrees). Four of the top five cities, in fact, had downscale populations that exceeded upscale ones.
(Pictured: People bring in fresh supplies for community members among piles of water logged debris outside of a West Virginia church during the historic 2016 flooding.)
The birthplace of rock & roll is tied with West Virginia's capital in overall giving, with 90 percent of adults having donated. The giving, while still skewed in the favor of churches, does begin to tip more towards traditional charities and non-profits, though. Sixty-nine percent of adults here said they gave to churches (and just 64 percent in Charleston, West Virginia).
(Pictured: Former Memphis Grizzlies player Darrell Arthur, now on the Denver Nuggets, with volunteers during a clean up in 2013 at the Wolf River Greenway in Memphis.)
Milwaukee, with a donation rate of 89 percent, was the one city in the top five whose upscale population exceeded downscale, but it was a narrow margin (12 percent versus 10 percent). Church donations were a little higher here, coming in at 73 percent.
(Pictured: The interior of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church during "Doors Open Milwaukee," an annual event organized by a local nonprofit to highlight and preserve the city's history.)
Cincinnati saw 88 percent of its adult population making a charitable donation of some sort. (Donations specifically to churches were not available outside of the top five.) Kindness could be a statewide characteristic in Ohio, though. WalletHub's survey of the most charitable states ranked Ohio eighth in the nation.
(Pictured: Volunteers from many different faiths come together to help build a Habitat for Humanity House in Ohio that is sponsored by the Multi-Faith Council.)
The Des Moines-Ames area could be a pocket of giving in a state that's generally less generous. Eighty-seven percent of the population says it has given to a charity or nonprofit. The WalletHub survey, though, ranks Iowa 34th overall in the nation in terms of donations.
(Pictured: A meal at the House of Compassion soup kitchen in Marshalltown, Iowa.)
Backing up the theory that Ohio is a generous state is Columbus's eighth place ranking in the Barna study, with 86 percent of adults reaching into their pockets.
(Pictured: People walk from the Sugartree Ministry after receiving food from the food bank in Wilmington, Ohio, which is located between Cincinnati and Columbus.)
The Big Easy is also among a handful of cities where 86 percent of the population gives to charities or nonprofits, according to the Barna Group research. That makes it something of an oasis in its state, as WalletHub found Louisiana overall to have the lowest percentage of its population who claim to have donated money.
(Pictured: A cat awaits a medical exam before being transported from the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter on the outskirts of New Orleans, Louisiana.)
These port towns, like New Orleans, boast an 86 percent giving rate (as does the Richmond-Petersburgh, Virginia area and the more spread out territory encompassing Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson, South Carolina, as well as Asheville, North Carolina).
Virginia, it's worth noting, was ranked ninth overall for charitable giving in WalletHub's study.
(Pictured: Basketball Hall of Fame member Allen Iverson returns to the Virginia Peninsula region where he was raised to provide a meal and Christmas gifts for 50 Boys & Girls Club members at one of the Newport News clubs.)