Lincoln Co. leads state in generosity

Published 5:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Lincoln County leads the state and ranks eighth in the nation incharitable donations among mid-size counties, according to a recentsurvey conducted by the newspaper Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Franklin County also received a positive nod from the newspaper.It was ranked 30th in the nation among small counties.

“That’s really a testament to Lincoln County and the surroundingarea,” said Chandler Russ, executive vice-president of theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. “I continue to beamazed by the generosity towards our organization and otherphilanthropic organizations.

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“It’s really an honor and shows why Lincoln County is such agreat place to live and do business in,” he added.

According to the study, Lincoln County residents donated anaverage of 16.3 percent of their discretionary income to charitywhile Franklin County residents donated an average of 14.1percent.

“Those percentages are just an enormous amount of giving,” Russsaid. “It goes to the very heart of the people.”

Five counties making the top 10 in mid-size counties are allcounties in Utah, placing second, third, fourth, sixth and 10th.Utah also led in small counties, with seven hitting the top 10.

“Researchers have generally ascribed the high giving rates inUtah to its high population of Mormons, whose religion requiresthat church members tithe 10 percent of their income to thechurch,” said Harvy Lipman, the Chronicle’s director of specialprojects.

Religious tithing probably also played a major role here aswell, Russ said.

“I would think it’s a good combination of both here,” he said.”We do a lot of tithing, but we also have a lot of donating topurely charitable organizations.”

One basic premise underlined the paper’s study and analysis ofcharitable giving, Lipman said.

“Most previous analyses of individual philanthropy have ignoreddifferences in the cost of living in various parts of the country,”he said. “Put simply, a dollar in New York City does not have thesame value as a dollar in Tuscaloosa, Ala.”

Lipman said they used that premise and a compilation of InternalRevenue Service tax returns for 1997 to compose their lists.

“The goal of the first study was to determine, on average, howmuch people in each of the nation’s more than 3,000 counties giveto charity as a percentage of their discretionary income — definedas the amount of money left over after basic living expenses forsuch items as housing, taxes, food, transportation and clothing arepaid,” he said.

To accomplish that, Lipman said, living expenses were subtractedfrom adjusted gross income to determine discretionary income, andthe average percentage donated to charity was calculated bydividing the average charitable donation by the averagediscretionary income.

By doing so, the study found that the cost of living makes a bigdifference in state giving rankings, and two regions of the U.S.stand out for the size of their donations.

“Taxpayers in rural southern and western states give the highestpercentage of their earnings to charity,” Lipman said.

This was the first time a Chronicle study had taken into accountcost of living expenses in their annual compiling of information,Lipman said.

The Chronicle used only the data for people with incomes of$50,000 or more.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is published biweekly and has morethan 100,000 readers worldwide.