Utah’s top rank on volunteer poll no surprise, but still important

Savage Services employees volunteer at Central Park Community Center in  South Salt Lake,

Savage Services employees volunteer at Central Park Community Center in South Salt Lake,

Maybe it’s no longer a surprise, or even newsworthy, when Utah gets noted as the nation’s most generous state. However, Wallet Hub’s latest ranking of generosity and voluntarism, again ranking Utah No.1, is worth noting mainly because it was such a slam dunk.

Utah scored No. 1 for its volunteer rate, for its percentage of income donated, and for the percentage of people who claim to have donated time and money (two separate categories). That’s four out of six categories.

The state did not rank in the top 10 for the percentage of people collecting and distributing food, and it finished 50th of 51 in terms of the number of charities per capita, with only Nevada doing worse.

That last category is probably best explained by how Utah is dominated by one large charity organization, The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It operates a large and far-reaching welfare program that doesn’t confine itself only to church members.

The study also found that states that tend to vote Republican are more generous than those that vote Democrat, but the difference is slight. Michigan, which finally was called for Trump on Monday, finished 39th on the generosity scale.

The results of this study were similar to those of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which regularly lists Utah as the most generous state. That survey found in 2015 there were 844,023 volunteers in the state, which is remarkable considering the population is about 3 million and many are children.

Critics sometimes note that Utah’s figures in these surveys is skewed because so many Utahns are members of the LDS Church and pay tithing or volunteer through church programs. They seldom try to explain why this should matter. Volunteerism is volunteerism, and church projects tend to help a wide array of people in a community.

Studies show that volunteer work brings a variety of benefits, including one by a Wharton professor that found it makes people who donate feel wealthier. U.S. News reported on studies that show adolescents benefit from performing volunteer work, even if their parents force them to do so, which is what typically happens in church projects.

Utah’s top showing may not be a surprise, but that doesn’t make it any less important for the people who live there.

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About the Author

Jay Evensen

Jay Evensen is the Senior Editorial Columnist for the Deseret News. He has 32 years of journalism experience covering politics and a variety of other assignments at news organizations ranging from United Press International in New York City to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Deseret News, where he has worked since 1986. During that time, he has won numerous local, regional and national awards. Most recently, he was given the Cameron Duncan Media Award, given annually in Washington, D.C., by the advocacy group RESULTS, to the journalist judged to have done the most to further the cause of the world's poorest people.

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