50 states of giving: Can you guess your state’s favorite cause?

Mar 28, 2024

At its core, charitable giving is a personal endeavor. Vanguard Charitable has long encouraged our donors to embrace their philanthropic individuality by supporting the charitable causes that mean the most to them. 


As a result, the charities who receive grants from Vanguard Charitable DAFs represent an incredibly diverse group of nonprofits of various sizes, organizational structures, and philosophies, working in an array of causes around the world.


Our new infographic, “A mosaic of generosity,” makes this especially clear. 

Displaying the top charity in each state by cause area, the map reveals a patchwork quilt of giving that speaks to the diversity and vibrancy of the nonprofit sector in the United States—and Vanguard Charitable donors’ ability to touch every corner of it. 



A mosaic of generosity: America's top charitable cause in each state

An image provided by Vanguard Charitable showing the cause area of the in-state charity that received the most Vanguard Charitable donor-recommended grants in 2023.
Showing the cause area of the in-state charity that received the most Vanguard Charitable donor-recommended grants in 2023. Two charities tied for receiving the most grants in North Dakota and South Carolina.




Favorite causes include human services, religion, and education  


The most popular causes Vanguard Charitable donors support each year tend to be human services, religion, and education. In 2023, Vanguard Charitable donors recommended approximately 60,000 grants to human services charities, 45,000 to religious organizations, and 32,000 to education charities.  


These trends are reflected in the map as well. Thirty-one of the 50 states are represented by at least one of these three cause areas. But the cause areas themselves comprise a wide array of charities with many distinct goals. 


Top education charities featured in the infographic include both universities, such as the University of Delaware in Delaware, and K-12 schools, such as St. Joseph’s Indian School in South Dakota. 


Top religious organizations include those with a national focus, such as Campus Crusade for Christ in Florida, and local places of worship, such as St. Richard’s Catholic Parish in Mississippi. 


Human services, a cause area characterized by a wide range of programs and services that meet human needs, is represented in part by food banks in states such as Alaska, Nevada, and Minnesota. The human services category also includes charities such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in West Virginia, Equal Justice Institute in Alabama, and Habitat for Humanity International in Georgia. 


Favorite cause trends by region


What does the map tell us about the interests of different regions within the United States? 


One identifiable trend is the cluster of education-focused charities in the Northeast and Midwest. Interestingly, every state in New England, apart from Connecticut, features a top charity that is focused on education, while no states west of Colorado do. Still, education charities are also popular in the Western U.S., even though none quailed in 2023 as the top charity in their state.


What’s most remarkable, looking at the map as a whole, is how few regional trends there appear to be. Every cause area identified by the map is found in multiple regions, and most are scattered across the country. The rich tapestry of our nation’s philanthropic sector is embodied by the colorful array of cause areas represented in the infographic. 



2023 was Vanguard Charitable’s most generous year yet

When it comes to the bigger philanthropic picture in 2023, the infographic shows just one piece of the puzzle. Vanguard Charitable donors granted 39% more in 2023 than in 2022, which was itself a record year. In fact, each of the past seven years have been record-setting years when it comes to the generosity shown by Vanguard Charitable donors. 


While the infographic features the top charity in each state, Vanguard Charitable donors supported more than 56,000 unique charities across the country and world last year alone. In total, Vanguard Charitable donors recommended 209,000 grants in 2023, driving forward meaningful progress in nearly all areas of society.

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