Statesman’s Story About Why Austin Doesn’t Give

“When the nation’s top 50 cities are ranked for charitable giving, Austin ranks 48th.”

This from the Austin American-Statesman referring to research conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy in 2003, which found that, of the 50 largest cities in the United States, Austin ranked 48th in the percentage of discretionary income Austinites donate to local charities.

48th in giving, 3rd in volunteering, according to a separate study, results released earlier this year.

Is it that Austinites don’t want to part with their money? That we’d rather show up and pack grocery bags or bring cupcakes then take out our checkbooks?

“One theory is that Austin doesn’t give because it isn’t used to it.”

The article reports the median age of Austin is 28.5, which is really young, when you think about it. At 28.5 years old, I sure wasn’t making enough to give much to charity. I probably ran five charity 5K races a year, gave $25 to some breast cancer charity, threw singles and fives in the basket at church… that’s about it. But I was volunteering at adult literacy classes, helping students with their work a couple of hours a week. So this makes sense to me.

And the idea that charitable giving has to be part of a city’s culture makes sense, also. The article refers to other big Texas cities like Dallas and Houston (and I believe it’s true of San Antonio, too) where long-time philanthropists lead the way. We have so few people like that here in Austin. At least I don’t hear about them.

I can think of the Dells, Lance Armstrong, the Longs…. but these people don’t run in my circles. I can’t think of any one of my friends or colleagues who makes a habit of giving big. Again, I never hear about it.

Which is the paradox of charitable giving, I guess. Maybe I do have contemporaries that give big and give locally, but they’re certainly not talking about it. That would be rude and bragging, and typically people with big hearts and big wallets don’t toot their own horns much.

WHICH IS WHY I love the idea of GoodCause magazine. Let us toot your horn, Austin.

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