Volunteers

Tim Ahumuza installs a smoke alarm earlier this month as part of a volunteer effort organized by the Reveille Rotary Club of Casper to improve fire and fall safety in senior citizens' homes. The finance website WalletHub recently named Wyoming the fourth most charitable state in the nation. 

Elysia Conner, Star-Tribune

Despite being in the midst of a major economic downturn, Wyoming scored high marks for charitable giving and volunteering over the last year, according to a ranking by the finance website WalletHub released Tuesday. The Cowboy State was listed as the fourth most charitable state in the nation.

The rank places Wyoming behind Utah but ahead of all other neighboring states, the closest competitor being South Dakota, which was ranked eighth.

States were scored primarily on charitable donations and volunteering but the full methodology included 14 items, including the total share of income by state residents that is donated. While Wyoming ranked eighth in both donations and volunteering, it appears to have been boosted in the overall ranking by a first place finish in the percentage of donated income.

Wyoming consistently scores high in philanthropic rankings. A different list of charitable states, released in mid-November by the website SmartAsset placed Wyoming third overall.

“Wyoming residents are ... generous with their money, at least according to their tax returns,” SmartAsset expert Derek Miller wrote in the ranking. “The average Wyoming resident donates just under $1,000 per year to charity according to IRS data.”

Casper was named the “most giving” city in the nation last November by travel website Travelocity in a ranking that relied largely on social media postings. The moniker is now promoted on lamppost banners in the city’s downtown.

“We take a great deal of pride in our community and our way of life in Casper and in Wyoming,” Downtown Development Authority CEO Kevin Hawley said at the time.

Grantmaking in Wyoming has been on an upward trajectory in recent years, according to Philanthropy Northwest, an organization that supports major charitable giving across six western states. Grants rose 30 percent between 2012 and 2014 and totaled $57 million in 2016, the most recent year for which data was available.

Source: WalletHub

While Philanthropy Northwest focuses primarily on foundational giving as opposed to small, individual donations, its data shows that charitable giving in the state is largely concentrated in the Jackson area. It ranked the Community Foundation of Jackson as the largest grant maker, representing more than 80 percent of philanthropic grants in the state.

Representatives from the Community Foundation of Jackson were unavailable to comment Tuesday.

The other major foundations active in Wyoming included the McMurry Foundation, the LOR Foundation, the John P. Ellbogen Foundation, the Joe & Arlene Watt Foundation and the Robert S. & Grayce B. Kerr Foundation.

Most of these organizations are endowed by wealthy individuals and less susceptible to the whims of Wyoming’s boom-and-bust energy industry.

Philanthropy Northwest noted the Wyoming nonprofits that received the most grants last year were working on issues related to the environment (22 percent), education (21 percent) and health (12 percent).

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Arno Rosenfeld covers state politics including the Legislature and Wyoming’s D.C. delegation, focusing especially on the major issues facing the Cowboy State like economic diversification and what it means to be the most conservative state in the nation.

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