You appreciate the value of helping those less fortunate, preserving the environment, and improving the conditions of the world around you. That’s why we analyzed hundreds of thousands of social-media posts from across the country to determine America’s most charitable destinations. We scoured the web for posts using the hashtags #charity, #donate, and #volunteer to find out which cities talk about—and use—these charitable social-media signals the most. Based on what people said about their philanthropic activities, we compiled a list of helpful hamlets. From the most hashtag usage per capita to the least, we ranked the top 25 most generous towns.
You are genuinely a good person and don’t take your status in life for granted. As an expression of your gratitude, you prefer to give back and support others whenever possible. You don’t rely on the holiday spirit to put you in a charitable mood, and you certainly don’t need a specific community event to remind you to volunteer. Even during your well-deserved getaways from your daily grind, you feel a calling to contribute to positive efforts. So, when planning your next vacation, consider these like-minded charitable cities and maybe even lend a helping hand when you’re in town.
1. Casper, Wyoming
Typically, visions of cowboys and rodeos are the first things that pop into your head when you think about Casper. More than just Stetson hats and the Gateway to the Tetons, though, Casper is the most charitable city in the nation, according to our study. And the city’s Annual Festival of the Trees, in its 26th year, is a perfect way to shop for holiday décor while raising money for the state’s Special Olympics. During the yearly event, Special Olympians greet and educate guests about the organization’s mission to support over 1,800 athletes statewide. Supporting athletes who show us anything is possible? Now that is gold-medal-worthy!
We reached out to Kevin Hawley of the Casper Downtown Development Authority for his thoughts on the city’s charitable efforts: “We take a great deal of pride in our community and our way of life in Casper and in Wyoming,“ he said. “We have a long history of figuring out ways to accomplish great things that benefit the entire community, and that is only possible because we roll up our sleeves and do it together. The generosity of the Casper community never ceases to amaze and makes me extremely proud to call Casper home.”
2. Conway, Arkansas
While Conway may be a short drive from Little Rock, most of its residents don’t commute to the state’s capital for work, preferring to reduce their carbon footprint. They even celebrate their environmental friendliness with an annual EcoFest to promote sustainable energy and increase “green” awareness. Along with entertainment that includes everything from musical acts to magicians, fest-goers can work their way through a recycling maze, learn about animal rehabilitation, and interact with experts in a variety of environmental disciplines. You’ll undoubtedly learn something to help your own town reduce its environmental impact, too.
3. Albuquerque, New Mexico
The only thing that reaches the same heights as Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains and hot-air balloons is the level to which the city gives back. With a keen focus on the beauty of its natural surroundings, one of Duke City’s most popular charities—the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance—is dedicated to preserving the area’s ecological balance. The Alliance has four campaigns—each created to protect a different geographic location in the state—that revolve around community outreach, education, grant writing, land planning, and wilderness defense. By supporting this great charity, you are helping Albuquerque’s surroundings remain pristine for your next visit.
4. Lincoln, Nebraska
As one of the top dozen refugee-friendly cities in the country, Lincoln already opens its welcoming arms to all those in need. That same charitable spirit shines through with the city’s many philanthropic efforts. The Pediatric Cancer Foundation reduces the financial burden of families battling the disease and creates awareness with the goal of finding a cure. The Food Bank of Lincoln’s Holiday Food Drive has helped generate over 2.5 million pounds of food for needy families. And the Cause for Paws Holiday Mingle and Jingle is an annual cocktail party and fundraiser to support state and local animal charities and rescue groups. The next time you’re in Lincoln, make sure to participate in one of its applaudable charity events and add another ray of hope to the city’s shining spirit.
The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce sums it up perfectly: “We prove that ‘Heartland’ is more than just a nickname. There are several organizations that make philanthropy their daily mission, and community-wide events that unite different people under a singular mission are never hard to find. Lincoln has a lot of love to give, and we wear it right on our sleeve. Whether someone is sharing their time, talent, or treasure with their city, Lincoln has ample service opportunity in a community where you can see the difference being made.”
5. Atlanta, Georgia
With so many residents, it’s no surprise that the Big Peach’s charity calendar is full all year long. No matter the season of your visit, you’ll find an event to participate in. Put your green thumb to use at a weekly Saturday tree-planting project with Trees Atlanta. Break out your tuxedoes and evening gowns for the Center for Family Resources Red Carpet Gala, which raised over $300,000 last year to help local families with housing assistance and other direct services. And help tackle the ongoing food shortage during the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Kick Hunger Challenge, where Falcons fans compete against other NFL cities to see which team can raise the most funds for their local food bank. Blue jeans, black ties, and battling hunger? Atlanta’s charities come in all forms.
6. Melbourne, Florida
Between chasing par at area golf courses and watching the tide roll in at Paradise Beach, the good people of Melbourne find time to participate in one of the most unique and truly heartwarming charity programs we’ve discovered. The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project is on a magnificent mission to help kids with physical and developmental needs enjoy an amazing time at Morgan’s Place, where they can explore the Technology Zone, spend some time in nature at the sensory garden, and frolic in the therapeutic Sensorium funhouse. The kids may be the ones having all the fun, but the feeling that you’ll get in your heart is as thrilling as anything they’ll experience in the Sensorium.
7. Nome, Alaska
Proof that America’s charitable spirit stretches to all corners of our great nation, the proud citizens of Nome offer more to the world than breathtaking scenery and hopes of unearthing a massive gold nugget. Nome’s Bering Straits Foundation aims to preserve and strengthen Native communities and values throughout the region by investing in the educational future and creating partnerships that preserve cultural heritage. And you thought Alaska was just salmon runs and dogsled races!
8. Dayton, Ohio
Understanding that it is more rewarding to offer a leg up, perhaps, in addition to a handout, the folks in the Gem City have a treasure trove of ways that they help their less-fortunate neighbors. The city’s Day of Caring has fostered a wave of volunteerism that can be seen in the House of Bread that helps to feed the hungry, and Homefull, which works to find shelter for those living on the streets. The next time you’re in town, stop by and volunteer at either of these organizations. It will make the rest of your stay that much more rewarding.
9. West Palm Beach, Florida
The generosity of West Palm Beach residents is on display daily thanks to ongoing support of Locks of Love and organizations such as McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary. That benevolence reaches a fever pitch during the Light the Night Walk to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In addition to sandals and golf spikes, make sure to pack some comfortable walking shoes if you want to participate in this communitywide event.
When you are in town, make sure to drop an extra coin into the orange parking meters to help fight homelessness. Said Mayor Jeri Muoio, “West Palm Beach has the perfect mix of big-city sophistication with the heart and generosity of a hometown. Everybody matters. Our city is always stepping up to lend a hand to those in need. Our Vicker’s House program is a perfect example of not only holiday generosity, but a year-round commitment to helping our city’s most needy residents.”
10. Orlando, Florida
When one of the most magical places on earth is right in your backyard, it’s only natural to want to share that positive energy with others. Whether they are lacing up their joggers for the Race to End Homelessness and the RDV Jungle Run or slipping on heels for the Golden Gala, residents of Orlando always put their best foot forward when it comes to helping others. Treat your taste buds to a vacation from traditional evening dinners during Orlando’s popular Magical Dining Month, sponsored by American Express.
George Aguel, president and CEO of Visit Orlando, describes the mouthwatering fete as an “opportunity to enjoy Orlando’s nationally recognized fine dining at an exceptional value—and for a good cause, as $1 from each meal is donated to a designated local charity. In 2015, diners contributed more than $160,000 to help provide mentors to urban at-risk youth in Central Florida, and this year contributions will go to the Russell Home for Atypical Children.” Helping charities by eating gourmet food sounds like a true win-win!
11. Augusta, Georgia
While Augusta may be home to one of the world’s most iconic golf tournaments, the locals are the real “Masters” around here. There are more than enough opportunities to “chip in” throughout Augusta. Lace up your sneakers for one of the fun runs benefiting the Children’s Hospital of Georgia and Salvation Army. Help at an all-volunteer food bank that has a variety of programs designed to help end hunger. And deck the halls with some decorations from the Junior League’s Holiday Market, which supports the community by improving the lives of local women and children.
12. Washington, D.C.
Our tax dollars and national budget may work to fund the government programs in our nation’s capital, but those who live inside the Beltway year-round put their money, time, and energy toward all sorts of charitable causes. With a 5K to End HIV, the Capital Area Food Bank, a DC chapter for the Holiday Project, and the various programs offered through SOME—like their Thanksgiving Day Trot for Hunger and annual dinner gala and silent auction—Washingtonians represent themselves very well in terms of volunteerism. Cast your ballot by supporting any of these impressive charitable causes the next time you are in our nation’s capital.
13. Los Angeles, California
It’s not all glitz and glamour in Los Angeles. The city is full of angels who give back in a way that is uniquely LA. The Taking the Reins program instills confidence in teenage girls through an equestrian program that teaches them leadership, responsibility, and communication skills. Take your facial hair out for a jog at The Mustache Dash during “Movember” to help raise awareness for men’s health. And—in keeping with the laid-back SoCal vibe—just chill out at the Do Nothing, For Charity “competition.” The event raises money to support individuals recovering from mental-health issues by having contestants literally sit in a park and do nothing to see who has the calmest heartbeat over a 90-minute period. An hour-and-a-half in a park? That’s a vacation from your 9-to-5, by itself!
14. Casa Grande, Arizona
As another small town with a big heart, Casa Grande knows how to have fun while raising money for a worthy cause. The Ride for the Warrior music festival and motorcycle rally is two days of live bands and loud bikes, with all proceeds going to benefit the Pinal County Veterans Memorial Foundation. Even if you aren’t able to take your iron horse with you on your vacation, you can still help out the local veterans by shaking and shimmying in the crowd with the rest of the festival-goers.
15. Sherman, Texas
Proof that everything is bigger in Texas, the folks of Sherman know no boundaries when it comes to their altruistic attitude. The North Texas Youth Connections helps runaways and homeless teens stabilize their lives by offering a shelter, transitional-living program, and residential service. They always welcome volunteers who are able to help out, even for an afternoon. Meals on Wheels delivers prepared food to those in need; stop by and box up a few meals before heading out to your own evening dinner. Finally, the Sherman Service League organizes vacationing volunteers for a multitude of local efforts and causes through its charity ball, Sisters of Service League, and Finley Cultural Center.
16. Childress, Texas
Not to be outdone by their North Texas neighbors, Childress keeps the Lone Star philanthropic spirit alive thanks to events like the Childress Women’s League Eat Wild Unplugged event. You definitely want to be in town for this one! The area is renowned for its wild game, and once a year Childress comes together for a gala evening of dancing and dining on the bounty of its resident hunters. You’ll almost certainly discover some new flavors and amazing recipes as you feast your way through the local cuisine. And you get to dance it all off after dinner!
17. Cleveland, Ohio
While Cleveland sports teams may have taken more than their fair share of lumps over the decades, the city’s residents certainly have a winning attitude when it comes to charity. The SouperBowl CLE is a hard-fought battle to determine the best soup in Northeast Ohio while helping to feed the hungry. And the Free Clinic’s MicroBrew Extravaganza, where attendees sample regional craft beers, supports health care for the needy.
Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation, offered his thoughts on the city’s commitment to charity: “Cleveland is one of the most generous communities per capita in this country. The concept of place-based philanthropy started right here in Cleveland with the advent of the Cleveland Foundation, the world’s first community foundation, more than 102 years ago. And it’s no coincidence that this idea came from Cleveland. For generations, newcomers to our community and lifelong Clevelanders are equally proud to support the outstanding charitable organizations that help our city survive and thrive.”
18. San Diego, California
America’s Finest City is also one of the most generous. Join in with local San Diegans to take advantage of the wonderful year-round weather as they help the less fortunate and the environment alike. With two Thanksgiving Day charity runs—the Father Joe’s Thanksgiving Day 5K and the Run for the Hungry—you can burn off enough calories to be able to enjoy an extra helping of turkey … no promises about more pie, though! The San Diego Food Bank has multiple opportunities to participate throughout the year—none bigger than their annual holiday-season food drive. Put your hiking boots to good use during one of the springtime hiking-path litter-pick events by Clean Trails. Or you can always rent a surfboard for the day and hit the waves in Ocean Beach for the annual Paddle Around the Pier, which raises awareness for clean water every summer.
Joe Terzi, Executive President & CEO at the San Diego Tourism Authority, hit the nail on the head: “San Diego’s sunny outlook can be found in many forms. That’s why it’s no surprise to see the wonderful amount of philanthropic energy the city possesses. Whether it’s arts and culture, humanities, or human services, San Diego residents enjoy giving back to the city they love and call home.”
19. Sacramento, California
The state capital is also a leader when it comes to the state’s volunteer efforts. Pack a present for a child in your carry-on bag for the Christmas Is for Kids Toy Run, which has helped to put gifts under the trees of needy families for 22 years. And the Sacramento Food Bank has offered a host of family services since 1976—all of which welcome out-of-town volunteer help. But perhaps no other local organization does as much for the future of our planet as the Sacramento Tree Foundation, with its goal of planting 5 million trees to help clean our air. With planting programs for schools, parks, and neighborhoods, urban wood rescue, and tree-care education, they are well on their way! Grab a shovel and dig in the next time you are in town.
20. Tampa, Florida
Thanks to amazing weather throughout the year, Tampa residents have a multitude of fun runs and races to benefit various local causes. You can fight brain tumors at the BrainDeer 5K, end homelessness at the Race for the Place, and help teens learn life skills at the S.O.A.R. Ugly Sweater 5K … all while working to reduce your own waistline! You can give your best to these wonderful local charities while working on your personal-best race time. Not a big runner, but still want to give back? The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay offers twice-monthly Share Your Heart Tours that show volunteers what services need a helping hand.
21. Paso Robles, California
This Central California town may be best known for its vineyards and hot-spring spas, but Paso Robles takes anything but a relaxing attitude when it comes to giving. Said Mayor Steve Martin, “Paso Robles is a city of very giving organizations and individuals. Activities all year long serve the disadvantaged and give everyone the opportunity to volunteer time, efforts, and resources. We are blessed to live in a community where so many are involved in these efforts.” The city’s Must! Charities aim to improve the quality of life for the area’s needy. And in one of the cutest charitable events we’ve discovered, the annual Central Coast Pug Rescue Pugsgiving gala is held to honor the lovable breed of dog, bringing pug lovers together for an afternoon social that includes a food and wine pairing and a silent auction to raise money for the pugs’ medical care at the rescue. Not only will you return home with a few bottles of local wine, you’ll also enjoy a renewed sense of purpose and a feeling of well-being.
22. Fort Collins, Colorado
A picturesque town with a strong military heritage, Fort Collins has an arsenal of goodwill and a stockpile of generosity. The Realities for Children Charities manages and sponsors over 130 annual local events that have been raising college-scholarship money for abused and at-risk children since 1995. So no matter what time of the year you visit, there will be an amazing event for you to participate in to help this very deserving charity. Make sure to bring your tuxedo and evening gown, too—the Winter Song Gala supports the local arts and culture scene with an evening of operatic arias and other festive live holiday performances.
23. Tucson, Arizona
The beauty of Tucson’s surrounding Sonoran landscape is eclipsed only by the beauty of its residents’ kind hearts. The Angel Charity for Children helps to improve the lives of area youth by raising over $800,000 annually through donations and events such as the Big Deal poker tournament and Angel Ball gala. Bluff your way to a stack of chips, then go all-in for the angels. And Ben’s Bells encourages acts of intentional kindness and supports its cause by making and selling colorful wind chimes that can be seen throughout the Old Pueblo. You absolutely will not find a more unique or intrinsically valuable souvenir. Dan Gibson from Visit Tucson adds, “Tucson is a town defined by our charitable efforts and efforts to promote a strong community. Just look around town and you’ll see murals, posters, and more with the motto ‘Be Kind,’ courtesy of local organization Ben’s Bells. We hope that kindness and caring is visible and felt by visitors.”
24. New York, New York
Somehow, the city that never sleeps finds more than enough time to support a variety of charitable organizations. The Jingle Bell Jog is a family-favorite fundraiser for NYRR’s youth programs that allows you to run through Central Park in December dressed as an elf without making people think you are crazy. The New York Cares Winter Benefit brings people together at a gala event to raise money for the organization’s programs, which include disaster preparedness and response, corporate volunteering opportunities, and citywide days of service. If you attend, you might run into professional athletes, world-famous celebrities, and local business leaders. Perhaps the city’s most popular event, the NYC Marathon, has a Team Robin Hood that helps to bring fellow New Yorkers up past the poverty line. You might not be able to participate in the race, but you can be one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men and cheer the runners on along the course.
25. Athens, Georgia
Always a town that has marched to its own beat, Athens has a few charitable organizations like no other we’ve uncovered in our research. Free I.T. Athens works to narrow the Digital Divide by collecting reclaimed computers and other technology, refurbishing them, and providing them—along with training and education—to those in need. We don’t expect you to pack your old laptop to donate. But if you are technologically savvy, stop by and help erase a few hard drives while you’re in town. And, in an important cause that grew out of Athens’ iconic music scene, Nuçi’s Space aims to end the suicide epidemic by advocating for greater education, prevention, and access to treatment options for those suffering from brain illnesses. The organization holds many live concerts to raise money for its cause, so be sure to check the local calendar to see if one is happening when you visit.
Chuck Jones, Athens CVB Director, had this to share about the city: “Athens is a very giving community, evidenced by the many registered charitable non-profits that call our city home, one of the highest per capita in the country. Visitors and residents alike experience a city that truly cares about individuals, and they benefit from the many services that are available to them.”
The next time you are putting together a getaway where you can give back, think about these 25 charitable cities. Better yet, start a volunteer effort in your own neighborhood and help to put your hometown on this list next year!
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