Why Charitable Giving Is A Priority In Generous Idaho

Dec 22, 2014

By various measures, Idaho is a generous state. Wallet Hub finds Idaho is the third-most generous state when it comes to charitable giving. The Chronicle of Philanthropy finds Idahoans give more than residents of every surrounding state except Utah. Idahoans are also eager to give their time. The Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Conference on Citizenship ranks Idaho second behind Utah for time spent volunteering.

It’s no surprise to United Way of the Treasure Valley’s President and CEO Nora Carpenter that Idahoans shine in many charitable-giving categories. Carpenter attributes the ‘love thy neighbor’ mentality to Idaho’s pioneer roots.

“Individuals jump in when the call goes out when something or someone needs help,” Carpenter says. “Part of that is ‘I have a stake in my community and it takes all of us to move us forward’. I think we have some pioneer pride that hangs on.”

As KBSX reported earlier this month, two big reasons Idaho frequents the top of generosity lists is because of the state’s large Mormon population and because Idaho is a low-income state. The Chronicle of Philanthropy has found low-income people give a higher share of their incomes to charity compared with wealthy people.

“It really touches the very heart of human nature," Carpenter says. "When you understand – at the most visceral level – what it is like to do without, you are very inclined to make sure nobody else has to be in that situation."

The Wall Street Journal pointed out the top motivator for giving is a sense of responsibility. Carpenter finds another top motivator is when someone is personally affected by an issue.

“You’ll see it play out with environment, animals, human service -- and that’s the connection point,” she says. “We maybe go happily through our lives and go ‘somebody else has got that,’ until it lands right in our space and then we become the most passionate advocates.”

Janice Fulkerson (left) is executive director of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. Nora Carpenter (right) is the president and CEO of United Way of the Treasure Valley.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The New York Times reported in 2012 that “we pay less tax as a share of our income than citizens of virtually every other rich economy in the world. But we contribute more to charity than citizens in any other country.”

In conservative states like Idaho that are even less willing to pay higher taxes, charities are often called upon to fill the gap left by inadequate public services.

Idaho Nonprofit Center Executive Director Janice Fulkerson says people are less willing to voluntarily give money to government and trust it’ll be spent well, when instead they could choose which charity to directly support.

“When people give their personal money, they have choice – they can decide where it goes,” Fulkerson says. “And they have more control over where it goes. It’s very personal.”

Carpenter adds humans are fortunate to have that emotional and personal connection to doing good.

“That’s a human characteristic that is innate to us. We can’t get rid of it; we can’t control it – and hooray for that because it changes the world.”

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @emiliersaunders

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