How can the “generosity” of any given city be determined?

A new report by Nerd Wallet has narrowed down what the group thinks qualifies a city’s generosity to two basic categories: volunteerism, and financial donations.

Using this metric, the Nerd Wallet study has compiled a list of the 20 most “generous” cities in the United States, and Utah is well represented.

The top three slots all belong to Utah cities, which received high marks not only for their high rates of financial donations, but also for the percentage of each city’s population that volunteered last year, and the average number of hours spent volunteering.

The high rankings of multiple Utah cities based on "generosity," or charity is hardly surprising, since just last June the Deseret News reported that the Chronicle of Philanthropy declared Utah the most generous state in America.

"The Mormon tradition of tithing is a primary reason residents of this state well outpace those in every other place in America," the COP researchers wrote in 2012.

Tithing donations, however, do not explain the high placement of Utah cities on the Nerd Wallet list, since it didn't look exclusively at charitable donations.

Then what is it about Utah that creates such a "generous" environment?

Some have suggested that religion plays a major factor, citing the fact that Utah's highly religious population (the Beehive State ranks second only to Mississippi in state religiosity) more easily lends itself to organized community service.

There are also those who say that religious affiliation simply inflates the numbers, arguing that tithing and other religious charities only benefit those within an isolated religious community.

Recent studies have shown, however, that those who identify as religious, such as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also donate to secular charities in high numbers.

According to a study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania last year, members of the LDS Church donate an average of $1,171 annually to social causes outside the church, and $650 a year to social causes within the church that aren't funded by tithing. That means the average member of the LDS Church gives roughly $1,821 in charitable donations on top of the member's tithing.

Find out which cities made the top 20.

JJ Feinauer is a graduate of Southern Virginia University and a content writer for the Moneywise page on Email:, Twitter: @jjfeinauer.