GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - It's the time of year when non-profits like the United Way are ramping up their campaign seasons.
So just how generous are local residents?
It turns out, middle class folks in Kent County donate nearly the same percentage of their income as the rich do. That's according to a new report recently released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy. It looks at the most recent IRS records of Americans who itemized their deductions and it compares each state.
The research found rich people give a smaller share of their income to charity than middle-class Americans do. That is the case in Michigan overall, but not in Kent and Ottawa counties.
Tempy Mann would never miss an opportunity to give her spare time volunteering in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. And for more than 20 years, she's never missed giving more than some spare change to the United Way.
"I'm by far not even ever close to being a millionaire, but I'm fortunate," said Mann.
The Kellogg's employee classifies herself as middle-class, and according to a new report, nationwide and in Michigan, that group -- households making between $50,000 to $99,000 -- is outgiving its wealthier friends. But in Kent and Ottawa counties, the two most charitable counties in the state according to the data, things appear more balanced.
Mann's bracket donated 6.4 percent of their income to charity, while those making $100,000 to $200,000 donated less: 5.6 percent. The wealthiest gave 6.7 percent.
In Ottawa County, the rich really stepped up; those making $200,000 or more gave 8.3 percent of their income to charity.
"I think the numbers reflect what Western Michigan is about," said Mann.
As a state, Michigan ranks 13 in the country for total contributions to charity, and has Kent and Ottawa counties largely to thank. The median Kent County contribution was $3,038; in Ottawa County, it was $3,495.
And giving hearts are giving even more so at Heart of West Michigan United Way. Individual annual donations increased from $300 to $307 this year, the first jump since 2006.
President and CEO Maureen Noe says though she does get extremely generous individual gifts, some for as much as $200,000, many of her 30,000 donors are average Joes.
"Someone who gets up at five in the morning, gets their family going, they're off to work, they're working as a bank teller, they could be working the line of a manufacturing plant," she said.
"I'm grateful to middle-class America that we are the core of what goes on in this country, and being part of a philanthropic community as we are, I think encourages people to be even more so," said Mann.
As the numbers show, almost everyone seems to be doing their share.
"My first reaction was, Kent County let's step it up," said Noe, about seeing the report. "My second reaction was to take a moment and celebrate our accomplishments and how generous we are."
Here are a few more interesting findings from the report:
In general, rich people in wealthy neighborhoods give smaller amounts than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.
Residents in red states give more than those in blue states.
Religion does play a role in giving. It's the main reason Utah and states in the Bible Belt are the top 10 most generous in the U.S; residents give more of their discretionary income to charities than those in other states.
To see how Kent and Ottawa counties stack up against the rest of the counties in the country, click here:
Chronicle of Philanthropy Report