Birmingham and Memphis have it. Pittsburgh and San Antonio don't. Or, at least, they don't have as much.
"It" is generosity. A new study, sponsored by the Albuquerque-based Tijeras Foundation (TF), attempts to establish a benchmark for generosity and to identify factors that make some communities more generous than others-with the hope of transforming less generous communities into more generous ones.
TF president Virgil Dugan said the 60-city study is a first step toward giving local communities the training and motivation to help residents become more generous. The initiative, called Generous Communities, originated at the Chattanooga-based Maclellan Foundation and is a partnership between Maclellan-affiliated Generous Giving, the National Christian Foundation, and two financial planning groups, Crown Financial Concepts and Kingdom Advisors.
Albuquerque (which ranked a lowly 57 on the list) is one of the first cities to sign on to the Generous Communities initiative. Dugan says the study results will be used to identify needs, evaluate progress, and train people in "biblical stewardship." In Albuquerque, for example, TF has helped more than 600 people to go through a six-week stewardship program.
Generous Communities is also facilitating cooperation among pastors, educational resources, and financial counselors in such cities as Houston (ranked 42nd in the study), Kansas City (33rd), and Chattanooga (12th). Generous communities tend to have higher percentages of evangelicals, entrepreneurs, married couples, and African-Americans, according to the study, but education in biblical stewardship can increase giving in any demographic group.
Even top-ranked cities have a long way to go, for few Americans approach the biblical tithe. Among evangelicals the percentage of tithers is probably less than 10 percent: The average American household gives away about 2.5 percent of its income. Generous Giving's Julie Silvester notes that greater giving could "radically transform" communities and also change many attitudes: "If a nonbelieving world could see our giving as a response to the gospel, if they could see a real difference in the generosity of Christians, that would have an eternal impact."
Ten most generous cities
Columbia, SC 3.2%
Greenville, SC 3.1%
Grand Rapids 3.1%
New York 3.1%
Ten least generous cities
San Antonio 1.7%
Ft. Lauderdale 2.0%
The state of California is considering legislation that many nonprofits consider a nightmare-and an example of how government regulation can become debilitating over time.
A bill before the California Senate would force foundations with more than $250 million in assets to record the sexual orientation of board members, as well as the number of grants awarded to homosexual groups. The bill, which has already passed the state's lower house, would also force these foundations to report the number of grants awarded to organizations serving ethnic minority communities and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.
Foundations that don't comply with the law could face legal action, fines, and loss of their nonprofit status.