Suffolk residents give generously

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Suffolk residents donate more of their disposable income to charity than the state or nation as a whole, according to a new study by The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Local nonprofit organizations that rely on the donations are completely unsurprised, saying the Hampton Roads area has always been generous and caring.

“We’re fortunate we have people at all income levels who donate,” said Miriam Beiler, executive director of the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. “You can tell that they care about their neighbors and the welfare of their communities.”

According to the study, Suffolk residents give 5.8 percent of their disposable income to charitable causes. That’s more than the rate of the state, 4.8, or the nation, 4.7.

Suffolk ranked third among the seven Hampton Roads cities for charitable giving, with only Hampton and Portsmouth giving at a higher rate. The city’s total contributions came to a whopping $48.7 million.

“It’s no surprise,” said Rob Shapiro, a spokesman for the American Red Cross Coastal Virginia Region.

“The people of Hampton Roads and of Suffolk, even in the most difficult, challenging economic times, always come through when the Red Cross needs help. Everybody really believes in extending their hand to help their neighbors.”

The study was based on the exact dollar amounts released by the Internal Revenue Service showing the value of charitable deductions claimed by American taxpayers in 2008, the most recent year for which such data was available.

Therefore, the study is limited in that it does not reflect donations that were not claimed as deductions. It also did not consider data for taxpayers with an annual income of less than $50,000 because of discrepancies in the data for that level, according to an explanation of the study.

Nationwide, according to the study, research found that rich people give less of their disposable income, while those in the middle class give more.

The trend continued in Suffolk. Taxpayers in the city making more than $200,000 gave just 4.1 percent of their discretionary income, but those making between $50,000 and $100,000 gave 7.2 percent.

The study also uncovered trends that offer hours of entertainment for those who enjoy debating politics and religion.

According to the study, Republican-leaning states are more generous than those that typically support Democrats. The top eight states voted for John McCain in 2008, while the seven lowest supported Barack Obama.

Religion also has a big influence on giving patterns, the study found. Regions of the country that are deeply religious give more than those that do not.

Two of the top nine states, Utah and Idaho, have high numbers of Mormon residents, who traditionally give 10 percent of their income to the church. The remaining states in the top nine are all in the South.