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Kent County donors more generous than rest of state, study suggests

Posted on November 17, 2015

People who donate to charitable causes in Kent County are more generous than individual donors in the rest of the state, according to a new estimated report from the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

The report shows total charitable giving in the county decreased slightly in 2013, compared to total giving in 2012.

The 2013 data, the last year from which figures are available, is included in the new Kent County Charitable Giving Estimate Report. The report shows that while just 6 percent of Michigan households are in Kent County, individual donors in the county contributed 9 percent of Michigan's total estimated giving.

The report also shows that donors of all types in Kent County gave a total of $907,877,678 in 2013, a moderate decrease of about $39 million, or 4.1 percent, from the total in 2012. Despite the slight drop off from 2012-2013, the overall four-year giving pattern is trending upward, and shows why it is important to track giving data over time, researchers said.

“There are many factors that can cause giving to go up or down in any community in any given year, causes that don’t necessarily mean individuals, foundations or corporations were any more or less generous that year. So these estimated numbers for 2013 are best interpreted as part of an overall gradual increase in Kent County giving over the past few years,” said Kyle Caldwell, executive director at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy.

Of the $907.88 million total, the majority (66.7 percent) came from individual donors, but foundations also gave a significant portion (23.1 percent). Foundations in Kent County contributed a much higher percentage of total giving than foundations nationwide (14.6 percent).

From 2012 to 2013:

- Individual giving decreased from $614.07 million to $605.79 million (-1.3 percent)

- Foundation giving decreased from $244.78 million to $209.60 million (-14.3 percent)

- Corporate giving increased from $51.05 million to $52.37 million (+2.6 percent)

- Bequest giving increased from $37.35 million to $40.12 million (+7.4 percent)

The percentage of total estimated charitable giving coming from foundations in Kent County is much greater than the percentage from foundations across the U.S. (23.1 percent vs. 14.6 percent) and the percentage coming from individuals is slightly lower in Kent County than in the U.S. overall (66.7 percent vs. 71.8 percent). 

Researchers also said this does not necessarily mean individuals in Kent County give less than individuals in other communities. Rather, these differences in percentage from the national estimates are likely caused by the relatively higher level of foundation giving in Kent County compared to other parts of the country.

A large portion of total foundation giving in Kent County comes from several large foundations located within the county. For example, the 2013 annual giving by six foundations created by one extended family accounted for 42.8 percent of Kent County's total foundation giving.

Estimating total giving is very difficult, but researchers at the Johnson Center adapted the Kent County study from a method used by Giving USA, a publication that provides the most respected estimate of total giving across the U.S. 

The figures in the report estimate giving by donors located in Kent County; the report does not analyze how much of that giving is distributed inside vs. outside Kent County.

More details on methodology and the full study can be found online at