As citizens of Memphis, we like to think our community is always growing and creating change. Otherwise, why would we live here? Embracing and elevating Memphis is the job of every single person that lives here, and one of the best ways to do that is to continually invest in your community.
When it comes to generosity and investing in the community, Memphis leads the pack. According to a study from the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Memphis ranks as the most charitable city in the United States.
Inspired to do even better
After trailing Salt Lake City, the last time rankings were revealed, Memphis broke into the top spot in 2017, spurred by increased giving to the public-school system. All told, Memphians give 5.6 percent of their overall income to charitable causes. That number is up from 5.1 percent in 2014, the last time the study was released.
Memphians were largely inspired to keep giving generously by a $90 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Teacher Effectiveness Institute (TEI) of Memphis City Schools in 2009. Their belief in Memphis’ ability to keep growing and thriving have renewed belief in the Bluff City and opened the floodgates for local residents to also contribute.
Over the last decade, the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has grown to an asset size of $430 million, and many of the donations coming in were specifically targeted to the public-school system. In 2017, that allowed the group to hand out $161 million in grants around the city.
It’s in our blood
Many also point to Memphis’ being a Southern city rooted in church philanthropy as influencing charitable giving. Cities like Birmingham and Atlanta, who also carry the same distinction, also ranked high on the list.
Besides the education system, other benefactors of Memphis’ philanthropy included:
- Extension of the Green Line bike trail
- Renovation of Shelby Farms Park
- Completion of Big River Crossing project
- Overton Square improvements
While some point to big changes in the federal tax code as it relates to charitable giving possibly hampering philanthropic giving across the country, there’s reason for optimism in Memphis. The number of public projects that have been sustained or initiated through Memphis’ generosity seems almost self-sustaining. That is, seeing all the good charitable giving has done for our city spurs continued giving.
Now that’s something to be proud of!
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