Fidelity Charitable Distributions Up 24%  To $9.1 Billion

Fidelity Charitable distributed $9.1 billion in grants to 170,000 charities during 2020 – record highs for each. The donor-advised funds giant’s contributors recommended a record 2 million grants, also a record.

Fidelity Charitable’s 2021 Giving Report showed a surge in giving came as the United States reeled from several events that focused attention on nonprofits. A series of racial justice issues focused attention on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, while the coronavirus pandemic strained social and healthcare service providers’ resources. At the same time, shelter-in-space orders limited entry fees and fundraising efforts for most arts and cultural institutions.

Donors targeted the human services sector, which includes food banks and homeless shelters, with nearly one-quarter of all giving. The uptick in funding for human services caused the category to rise from its fourth-place position in 2019 to a tie with education as the sector receiving the most cash from funders.

The top five recipients were, in order: Doctors Without Borders USA; The Salvation Army; St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital; American National Red Cross; and United Way.

As part of this phenomenon, organizations that address food insecurity saw their donations increase 12-fold from the previous year, resulting in three food assistance nonprofits, Feeding America, Meals on Wheels and World Central Kitchen, breaking into the 20 most popular charities supported by Fidelity Charitable donors for the first time.

Nearly two-thirds – 63 percent – of all grants were unrestricted, compared to 60 percent in 2019. As the report authors noted, “Unrestricted funding was particularly valuable to nonprofits in 2020, as many struggled to keep up with a demand for services even as their fundraising opportunities were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The 2020 distributions represented 31% more individual grants, and 24% more funds granted than in 2019. Funders also expanded the range of nonprofits to which they contributed: the 170,000 organizations that received donations marked a 10 percent increase from 2019.

Donors devoted 49% of their largesse to re-grants, followed by 27% that consisted of new grants. Automatically scheduled grants made up the other 24% of money distributed. Account holders made an average of 12.8 grant recommendations during 2020, compared to 10.8 in 2019. The average amount distributed was $4,614, up from $4,358 in 2019. The 153,430 DAFs managed by Fidelity held a median balance of $21,637.

Publicly-traded securities such as stocks made up 57% of all donations, followed by cash (32%) and non-publicly traded assets such as cryptocurrency, limited partnership interest or private stock. Cryptocurrency donations more than doubled from the $13 million given in 2019 to $28 million.

Fidelity included donor names and addresses with grants 83% of the time. Another 13% gave only the name of the account, while four percent of the grants were made anonymously.