Giving dips in N.C., but outpaces U.S.

Donna Chavis
Donna Chavis

Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina taxpayers who itemize their charitable deductions donated a total of $5.4 billion in 2006, down slightly from the previous year, but they remain more generous than American as a whole, a new report says.

Given that only about one in three state residents itemize their deductions, total contributions by North Carolinians likely are much higher than $5.4 billion.

That total for the state, while up about 46 percent over the past decade, after adjusting for inflation, is down slightly from the $5.41 billion donated in 2005, says the report commissioned by NCGives and produced by the Urban Institute.

“We can be encouraged by the fact that giving by individuals in North Carolina increased steadily and outranked national giving,” says Donna Chavis, executive director of NCGives. “In these current times, we can be encouraged by the fact that North Carolinians have been giving, and giving strongly.”

While giving trends in North Carolina generally mirror those for the U.S. as a whole, the state’s taxpayers tend to be more generous, with average giving of $4,282 in 2006, compared to $4,109 for all Americans.

Average giving by North Carolina taxpayers dropped about two percent from 2005, compared to a three percent decline in giving nationally.

Average giving as a share of adjusted gross income for the state’s taxpayers was 4.2 percent in 2006, down from 4.5 percent in 2004, but higher than the national average of 3.4 percent.

In 2006, about one in 10 North Carolina taxpayers were classified as “top earners,” those making at least $100,000, and nine in 10 of them itemized their charitable deductions.

Among those high earners, average giving dropped to $7,866 in 2006 from $8,428 in 2005, but was larger than the national high-earner average of $7,684, which also was down from the prior year.

However, the state’s wealthiest earners were not the most generous, giving only 3.5 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity in 2006, compared to the statewide average of 4.2 percent.

While giving overall may take a hit during the recession, Chavis says, North Carolinians will continue their generosity.

“I would be unrealistic if I didn’t expect that giving would drop,” she says. “North Carolinians have been giving at a higher level than the national average and I don’t expect that to change. Some individuals may step up their giving during this time.”

Giving in the Triangle

Taxpayers in the Research Triangle area of the state, home to 1.3 million people living in Chatham, Durham, Orange and Wake counties, gave a total of just over $1 billion to charity in 2006.

Seven in 10 of those dollars came from Wake County residents, while Durham County gave 17 percent, Orange County contributed 12 percent and Chatham gave the remaining 3 percent.

The average gift for Triangle taxpayers in 2006 was $4,228, slightly lower than the statewide average of $4,282.

While the reasons for that are not fully understood, Chavis notes the Triangle is different from the rest of the state.

“It’s a complex region,” says Chavis. “The economic base is housed in education and in companies that are often national and international in scope. So you have a population that is in flux at times.”

And the Triangle is home to many high-earning young professionals who are still working to establish themselves.

Among the four counties, taxpayers in Orange boasted the highest average giving of $5,218, while Chatham taxpayers gave the least at $3,906.

And Triangle residents were less generous than in 2006, donating 3.5 percent of their adjusted gross income to charity, compared to an average of 4.2 percent for all of North Carolina.

Average giving for the region’s high-income taxpayers came in at $6,915 in 2006, below the statewide and national averages for high-income earners, and down from a high of $7,277 in 2004.

While Orange County high-income earners gave the largest average gift of $8,015 in 2006, Durham’s high-income taxpayers donated 3.6 percent of the adjusted gross income, more than the three other Triangle counties.

But people all across the state are giving, Chavis says.

“When you look at some of the tier-one counties,” she says of the state’s poorest regions, “we can be very encouraged by the charitable impulse of the people in this state.”

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