Study reveals locals have deep pockets, open hearts for charitable giving

It would seem that whoever came up with the slogan “Pine Bluff loves people” already knew what the authors of a study on the charitable giving patterns of Pine Bluff residents discovered.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an extensive study titled “How America Gives” that quantifies the out-sized generosity of the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County in terms of percentage of total income given to charity.

Using 2008 Internal Revenue Service data on income levels and the amounts of money claimed in charitable contributions, the study found that Pine Bluff ranked 543rd out of 11,522 cities nationwide by percent of income given.

By comparison, Little Rock ranked 1,259th; Conway ranked 1,911th; Fayetteville ranked 3,115th; and Bentonville ranked 3,569th.

Jefferson County ranked 116th out of 3,115 counties by percent of income given; and the Pine Bluff Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked seventh out of 366.

The Pine Bluff MSA is made up of Jefferson, Lincoln and Cleveland counties.

United Way of Southeast Arkansas Executive Director Jim Caldwell said that the giving nature of Pine Bluff residents has served his organization well over the years.

“There is something about Pine Bluff that I find to be very special,” Caldwell said. “People here don’t just talk about doing something, they do it.”

Caldwell used the planning and construction of the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center — where the United Way has its office — as an example of the level of community cooperation behind the charitable generosity.

“The Reynolds Center took a high degree of cooperation from many entities across the community,” Caldwell said. “The Reynolds Foundation only built two of these. One here in Pine Bluff and the other in Incline Village, Nev. Once the land was secured it was given to the city, which in turn leased it to the Reynolds Center for $1 per year.”

Caldwell said that the best way to maximize fundraising is to emphasize why the money is needed.

“Pine Bluff has the most consistent United Way Campaign in the state,” Caldwell said. “If the why is strong enough, people will find a way. When the why is there, a way will appear. Once people know why the money is needed, they will respond.

“It all goes back to people,” Caldwell said. “People here in Pine Bluff just understand the why and they find a way. Support for various agencies throughout the community is just very strong.”