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Disaster relief, strong markets, appreciation of complex asset contributions like cryptocurrency, and tax reform drive engagement;
Fidelity Charitable welcomes record number of new donors, an 83% year-over-year increase;
Donor advised funds hit tipping point, become a favored vehicle for giving
BOSTON, February 14, 2018 — 2017 was an extraordinary year for giving, according to a report released today by Fidelity Charitable, the nation's second-largest grantmaker. Last year, Fidelity Charitable gave an unprecedented $4.5 billion across more than 1 million donor-recommended grants, to nearly 127,000 nonprofit organizations, as detailed in the new Fidelity Charitable 2018 Giving Report.
The 2018 Giving Report explains why 2017 was such a hallmark year for donor-advised fund giving: strong markets, tax reform, and the fact that donor-advised funds have become a vehicle of choice for charitable giving. The appreciation of noncash assets such as bitcoin was also a large driver of giving. For example, Fidelity Charitable received nearly $70 million in cryptocurrency—ten times what was contributed in the previous year.
Donald Gould is a Fidelity Charitable donor who evolved his take on giving using his donor-advised fund. Given Mr. Gould's long-term commitment to charitable giving, he opened his Giving Account at Fidelity Charitable in 1998, contributing to it on a regular basis and making grants nearly as quickly as he funded his account.
2017 marked a turning point for Mr. Gould, who runs an investment advisory business in California. Focusing on creating longer-term impact and looking to involve his children, he wanted to make a “down payment” on his charitable giving for the future. The environment in 2017 made it ideal for him to do so. By donating highly appreciated private stock from his firm, he made a contribution to his donor-advised fund (DAF) that will allow him the sort of flexibility he needs to support the causes he cares most about.
“My Giving Account has allowed me to align my priorities with my actions. As I continue to develop my estate plan, I want to do a lot more due diligence on nonprofits and my DAF has allowed me to choose both the timing of my gifts along with the tax deduction. Also, my Giving Account was the only way I could have made a gift of illiquid assets that I could then grant out to multiple charities. We have a duty to give back to help the generations that follow us, and I can now do so in a way that creates the most impact possible,” said Mr. Gould.
While Mr. Gould opened his Giving Account well before donor-advised funds became widely known, his story is indicative of a growing trend in how Americans engage with philanthropy—strategically and to create impact. In the past year, donor-advised funds have crossed a tipping point, becoming a popular and increasingly mainstream vehicle for charitable giving.
The numbers in the 2018 Giving Report reflect this tipping-point story: In 2017, Fidelity Charitable welcomed 30,000 new donors across more than 21,000 Giving Accounts, an 83% year-over-year increase. These donors represent varied levels of wealth, with 56% of account balances below $25,000.
“We are now at an inflection point in philanthropy, as donor-advised funds have become more popular over the years with Americans looking at how to best impact the causes they care about the most. Donor-advised funds allow givers to take a more strategic look at how they give, while also facilitating in-the-moment granting. Fidelity Charitable is proud to be a part of that movement,” said Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable.
The 2018 Giving Report analysis reveals an upward trajectory of charities specifically focused on targeted issues, such as disaster relief, civil liberties and the environment.
Disaster relief was one of the major themes in donor support last year with more than 20,000 Giving Accounts supporting disaster relief causes; the top three most popular charities across all Fidelity Charitable donors were the American National Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders USA and The Salvation Army. In total, Fidelity Charitable gave nearly $60 million for disaster relief causes and more than 21,000 donor-recommended grants. Other popular charities included St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, The Nature Conservancy, the ACLU Foundation and the American Heart Association.
In 2017, Fidelity Charitable assisted donors in converting a record of nearly $1 billion of non-publicly traded assets into committed funds for charity, helping to unlock the full value of these assets for giving and meet its mission of growing philanthropy. These donations included nearly $70 million in cryptocurrency, as well as assets as varied as private stock, life insurance policies and even bags of grain. Due to the tax efficiencies of donating noncash assets, this uptick results in more overall dollars available for giving.
Through liquidating complex assets and investment growth, Fidelity Charitable has made nearly $11 billion available for charity that did not previously exist, since its inception in 1991.
“We are humbled by the extraordinary generosity of our donors, who have recommended grants worth $30 billion to causes they care most about since we opened our doors in 1991. Our focus is on the future as we continue to work tirelessly to make giving accessible, simple and effective through seamless donor service and continually simplifying the donor experience through technology,” said Norley.
The complete Fidelity Charitable 2018 Giving Report.
Fidelity Charitable is an independent public charity that has helped donors support more than 255,000 nonprofit organizations with $30 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 https://www.fidelitycharitable.org.