Amid pandemic, donor generosity multiplied across America to help feed and house the vulnerable, while sustaining support of other charitable causes

Every geographic region increased its grant volume by 28 percent or more;

667 percent increase in money granted to free food programs nationwide;

In 38 states, a Human Services charity like a local food bank or homeless shelter became the most popular charity, compared to only six states in 2019


BOSTON, June 26, 2020 – Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity and the nation’s largest grantmaker, today released “Communities in crisis: How donors are responding to COVID-19,” which examined granting activity by Fidelity Charitable Giving Accounts in all 50 states during the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world in the first four months of this year, donors dramatically increased their support in response to breakdowns in the medical system and mass unemployment. Yet they did not waver in their support of the nonprofit sector as a whole and maintained normal levels of support for other charitable causes in areas such as Arts & Culture, Environment & Animals and Religion.

“We are heartened to see that our donors rallied to increase support for the most immediate needs caused by this pandemic, while continuing the same level of support for charities they have always cared about,” said Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable. “Support for all charities is good news for a nonprofit sector struggling to deliver their services at a time of strained resources and increased need. We continue to challenge our donors to support charities throughout the year. The nonprofit sector is the nation’s third largest employer and represents about 10 percent of America’s workforce. It must be sustained.”

Grant volumes recommended by donors in every region skyrocketed 28 percent or more, as donors in 38 states and Washington, D.C. made a local food bank or homeless shelter the most popular nonprofit compared to only six states in 2019.

Yet even as grant dollars to free food programs increased 667 percent nationwide, donors sustained or increased support for all nonprofit sectors, with the exception of Education. The small decrease might be donors in the Northeast reallocating their support to Human Services organizations as they weathered widespread outbreaks of COVID-19.

Bar chart showing charitable sector support by percentage of Giving Accounts supporting an organization in the sector. Religion received the most support in the first four months of 2019, but Human Services became the most popular among donors in 2020.

About half of grant dollars went to charities within a donor’s home state, also similar to 2019. However, grants specifically designated for COVID-19 response deviated from those patterns. Areas experiencing higher caseloads of COVID-19, such as New York, kept more of their pandemic-designated support closer to home. In other areas of the country that were less hard hit, a greater percentage of COVID-19-designated support went to nonprofits out-of-state, indicating they may have been directed to help harder hit areas.

“Donor-advised funds have become a powerful sustaining force for philanthropy as these dedicated charitable resources are generally insulated from the effects of what is happening in the larger economy,” said Norley. “As their adoption increases, donor-advised funds can continue to scale to support a large number of nonprofits that need help in a crisis. Recovery from COVID-19 will be a marathon and not a sprint, and we encourage our donors to continue to respond to the ongoing needs.”

For details by region or state, visit: Communities in crisis: How donors are responding to COVID-19

Methodology: This analysis examines the grantmaking activity of Fidelity Charitable’s nearly 140,000 Giving Accounts from January 1 to April 30, 2020, in comparison to the same time period in 2019. The data was obtained from Fidelity Charitable’s internal reporting database.

About Fidelity Charitable

Fidelity Charitable is an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 300,000 nonprofit organizations with $42 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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