$3.1 Billion In Donations From Fidelity Charitable DAFs

June 2, 2016       Paul Clolery      

Religion and education seem to have a lot in common when it comes to donors using Fidelity Charitable’s donor-advised funds (DAF). The percentage of grant volume was 27 percent for religious groups and 15 percent for education during 2015. But the script was flipped when it came to percentage of actual grant dollars, with education leading the pack at 26 percent and religion coming in at 16 percent.

There were 329 gifts of at least $1 million during 2015. And, two-thirds of contributed dollars were derived from non-cash assets, such as stocks and real estate, an 18-percent increase from 2014.

The statistics are from the “2016 Fidelity Charitable Giving Report,” an analysis of giving patterns and habits of the approximately 132,000 donors using the firm’s DAF. Roughly $3.1 billion in grants were made during 2015 from the more than $12 billion managed by the firm. That’s up about 20 percent from $2.6 billion granted during 2014.

According to industry statistics, there were 238,293 DAF accounts in the United States during 2014, of which roughly 72,000 (30.2 percent) were tied to Fidelity Charitable. An industry-wide number is not yet available for 2015 but Fidelity’s accounts increased to 80,152, according to the firm, an increase of more than 11 percent. Grants made through DAFs as a whole reached an all-time high of $12.49 billion in 2014.

The average number of gifts per account has gone from 5.3 for 2006 to 9.2 for 2015, but the average grant declined from $4,430 for 2006 to $4,179 for 2015 – a difference of 5.6 percent. More than 70 percent of Boston-based Fidelity Charitable donors give at least $10,000 per year, according to the firm.

More than 106,000 nonprofits received grants last year. Some of the statistics in Fidelity Charitable’s report include:

  • 85 percent of donors support six or more charities;
  • 60 percent of donors contributed appreciated assets to Fidelity Charitable last year;
  • 82 percent of donors engage others in the decision-making process around their giving;
  • 62 percent of retired donors are confident about their ability to give in the future;
  • 71 percent of donors give more than $10,000 per year; and,
  • 92 percent of donations allocated to Giving Accounts at Fidelity Charitable were distributed to charities within 10 years of receipt.

“A key benefit of using a donor-advised fund is that you can make a single donation of long-term appreciated securities and use that one contribution to support multiple charities,” Amy Danforth, president of Fidelity Charitable said. “People who give want to maximize the positive impact their donations have on the organizations they support. We are proud of the essential role we play in helping our donors achieve that goal,” she said.

For real estate property, for example, in general, the owner would donate the property deed to the charity – in this case Fidelity Charitable – which would then be sold. Fidelity Charitable’s Complex Assets Group would process the transaction and conversion of the property into a monetary amount that a donor can then gift to a nonprofit of their choosing, according to a Fidelity Charitable spokesperson.

One of the raps against DAFs is that the cash often sits there for a long time. According to Fidelity, that’s not so much the case. Data in the report show that 61 percent of the contribution made since its inception in 1991 have been paid out. According to a spokesperson, analysts reviewed donor contributions in five-year blocks of time and then studied grant recommendations associated with those contributions in that block of time and subsequent five-year periods. For example, all contributions received from 1996 to 2000 were reviewed based on grant recommendations in the same time frame (1996 to 2000), the next five years (2001 to 2005), the next five years (2006 to 2010) and then 2011 to 2015. A limited number of Giving Accounts with significant transfer activity were excluded from the analysis.

Philanthropy can be a family affair, with 62 percent of Fidelity Charitable’s accounts having multiple donors with advisory privileges (those permitted to recommend grants).

Giving is often driven by the evening news. Charities receiving at least 1,000 gifts from Fidelity Charitable donors saw a spike when the organizations were in the news based on humanitarian crisis.

For more information, visit http://www.fidelitycharitable.org