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Geography and Generosity

center on wealth and philanthropy

The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College has been awarded a grant by the Boston Foundation to examine generosity levels in Boston, Massachusetts and New England, areas often perceived to lag in charitable giving.

The grant will support the research project, "Geography and Generosity: The Boston Area and Beyond," designed to evaluate whether these areas are in fact less philanthropically generous than other cities, states and regions of the country.

"Over the past decade, various reports published locally and nationally have concluded that people living in the Boston Area, Massachusetts and New England in general are less charitably inclined and generous than people living in other regions of the country," said Center on Wealth and Philanthropy Director Paul G. Schervish. "For many in our local and regional charitable sector, these reports about the lack of generosity have been cause for concern and even embarrassment. For others, these reports have been cause for skepticism, a pervasive feeling that the rankings are counter-intuitive and fail to square with experience."

According to CWP Senior Research Associate John Havens, who will direct the statistical analyses, this study will offer unbiased scientific assessment of how the reported findings about Boston and the region have been derived and whether the findings are valid. "In addition," said Havens, "it will produce comparative city, state and regional analyses more thorough than the studies that have received such wide distribution and credence."

"Promoting philanthropy is at the very heart of our mission here at the Boston Foundation. This study will provide us with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of individual charitable giving and of the patterns of giving in our region," said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. "The accurate information and analysis we expect to get from this report will help organizations in Boston's nonprofit sector develop truly effective strategies for fundraising and weather challenging fiscal shifts and changing times."

The project will run from September 1, 2004 and will utilize data from a variety of statistical sources including data complied by the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy of the Urban Institute.

The Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College is a multidisciplinary research center specializing in the study of spirituality, wealth, philanthropy and other aspects of cultural life in an age of affluence. CWP is a recognized authority on the relation between economic wherewithal and philanthropy, the motivations for charitable involvement, and the underlying meaning and practice of care.

Founded in 1970 as the Social Welfare Research Institute, the center officially was renamed on June 1, 2004, to reflect the increasingly exclusive focus of the researchers' work over the past two decades on the trends, meaning, motivations and practice of wealth and philanthropy, and to coincide with a new program of executive education for wealth holders, fundraisers and financial professionals.

The Boston Foundation, one of the nation's oldest and largest community foundations, has an endowment of $650 million and made grants of nearly $50 million to nonprofit organizations this year in the Greater Boston area and beyond. The Boston Foundation also sponsors special initiatives, convenes groups of people to explore important issues, and works with other organizations and with government to find new ways to build community. For more information about the Boston Foundation and its grantmaking, visit

Click here for more information about the first year report, Geography and Generosity: Boston and Beyond.

Related Documents:

"Do the Poor Pay More: Is the U-shaped Curve Correct?"
Paul G. Schervish and John J. Havens. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 24, no. 1, Spring 1995.
Download File (PDF, 885kb)


"Explaining the Curve in the U-shaped Curve"
Paul G. Schervish and John J.Havens. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 6, no. 2, Aug. 1995.
Download File (PDF, 1.13mb)


"The High Giving Poor: Who are the Low Income People Who Make High Contributions?"
Anthony J. Savoie and John J. Havens. Presented at the 1998 annual meeting of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action, Seattle, Nov. 5-7, 1998.
Download File (PDF, 1.07mb)