Fidelity Charitable’s 2017 Giving Report highlights changes and trends in giving

Donors make changes in charities they support in response to local, national and global issues; Study sees rise in donors trying to make a difference through giving non-cash assets and impact investing; Fidelity Charitable donors continue to break records in first half of 2017, recommending nearly $2 billion in grants

BOSTON, MA, June 27, 2017 – High impact events influenced the charities donors chose to support in 2016, according to a report released today by Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s second-largest grantmaker.1 The 2017 Fidelity Charitable Giving Report finds a surge in donor generosity around local, national and global issues. The report also highlights how Fidelity Charitable donors are seeking to be more effective through tax-smart giving and impact investing.

Combined, these trends prompted Fidelity Charitable donors to recommend a record-breaking $3.5 billion in grants to support more than 114,000 organizations in 2016. The trend continues this year with nearly $2 billion granted in the first six months of 2017, including an unprecedented $9 million in Bitcoin. This is more money given to charities over the first half of the year than ever before in the organization’s 26-year history.

Giving trends in 2016 include responsive philanthropy, committed support

As popularity of donor-advised funds continues to rise, the list of charities receiving support from more than 1,000 Fidelity Charitable Giving Accounts increased by 43% to 30 charities.

Nearly three-quarters of the 849,000 grants that donors recommended last year went to charities donors had previously supported, reflected in nonprofit mainstays like United Way, American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity consistently represented on the list. But local, national and global events also activated groups of donors to provide more support to a range of key issues and causes.

“When there is a need locally or globally, Fidelity Charitable donors spring to action, get involved, and provide support,” said Pam Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable. “Donor-advised funds are an ideal way for people to make a difference because they help donors stay nimble to immediately respond to unforeseen world events, while maintaining their commitment to their core giving interests.”

For instance, more donors chose to recommend grants to groups like Southern Poverty Law Center and Natural Resources Defense Council following the election. Similarly, donations to International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders increased in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis.

Record conversions of non-cash assets into giving

Although a significant amount of wealth in the United States is tied up in non-publicly traded assets like real estate, restricted stock, or limited partnership interests, most donors who have these assets still are giving with cash, checks and credit cards. This is beginning to change, as the Giving Report highlights.

In 2016, Fidelity Charitable’s experts assisted donors in converting a record $796 million of non-publicly traded assets into funds available for grants from their Giving Accounts. These donations included nearly $125 million in donor contributions of restricted stock, as well as assets as varied as Bitcoin, private stock and life insurance policies. Due to the tax efficiencies of donating non-cash assets, this uptick results in more overall dollars available for giving.

In Fargo, ND, Fidelity Charitable donor, Bob Scheel, has seen that benefit first-hand. He and his late wife, Joan, established their Giving Account in 1996 by donating privately held stock from his family's sporting goods company and have continued to make regular contributions of additional shares. The donation of those assets has fueled a stream of generous support for efforts as varied as the education of more than 1,400 children in Guatemala—many of whom had once been homeless or involved in criminal gangs or juvenile prostitution—a state-of-the-art kitchen remodel at a local YWCA battered women’s shelter, and a boost for a one-of-a-kind school for the deaf in the Philippines that trains students for the workplace.

“Using a donor-advised fund is just so darn easy,” said Bob, who estimates he supports 30 nonprofits each year from his Giving Account with the funds generated from investment growth and Fidelity Charitable’s sale of the privately held stock donations.

Growth in impact investing

The report also highlights growing enthusiasm for impact investing as support of impact-investing nonprofits has nearly doubled over the past five years to 3,150 donor-recommended grants totaling $19.1 million in 2016. In all, Fidelity Charitable made $73 million in grants to impact-investing nonprofits over a 5-year period. Impact investing, until recently, has been a niche concept, but the growth in support across a wide breadth of Giving Accounts indicates that it may become a more mainstream trend.

“At Fidelity Charitable, we’re fortunate to have a front-row seat to transformations taking place in giving,” Norley added. “Impact investing is one trend that seems to be on an upward trajectory; what hasn’t changed is the motivation and drive of donors to maximize their ability to make a difference and the power of donor-advised funds to help them do it.”

Contribution and granting highlights include:

  • Fidelity Charitable donors recommend nearly $2 billion in first six months of 2017.
  • Fidelity Charitable’s investments have generated an additional $4.5 billion available for grants since inception.
  • Grant dollars to charity have tripled over the last 10 years, while the number of grants $1 million or more has increased 500% to 404 grants in 2016.
  • Sixty percent of donor contributions to Fidelity Charitable in 2016 were non-cash assets, such as stocks or mutual funds.
  • Donors contributed a record number of non-publicly traded assets in 2016—$796 million in restricted stock, limited partnership interests, Bitcoin and other assets, potentially unlocking assets that would not otherwise be available to give.
  • The number of grants per Giving Account has grown over the last 10 years, from 6.2 to 9.3, while the average grant amount has remained at about $4,200.
  • Three-quarters of donors’ contribution dollars are granted within five years of receipt.

The complete 2017 Fidelity Charitable Giving Report.

1Based on a comparison of Fidelity Charitable grant dollars with the grants made by private, corporate and community foundations, as listed in the Foundation Center’s “Top 100 U.S. Foundations by Total Giving” list.

About Fidelity Charitable

Fidelity Charitable is an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 235,000 nonprofit organizations with more than $26 billion in grants. Established in 1991, Fidelity Charitable launched the first national donor-advised fund program. The mission of the organization is to grow the American tradition of philanthropy by providing programs that make charitable giving accessible, simple and effective. For more information about Fidelity Charitable, visit

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