DAF Dollars Boosted Food Programs 667%

Donors at Fidelity Charitable increased grants across the geographic spectrum during the first four months of 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19), boosting human services charities in particular, while also maintaining giving to other charities.

The Boston-based donor-advised fund (DAF) released “Communities In Crisis: How donors are responding to COVID-19,” a 41-page report detailing donor grantmaking activity across sectors and by geography from January to April.

Fidelity account holders recommended 544,000 grants totaling $2.4 billion, an increase of 16 percent compared with the same period in 2019. The report attributed much of the additional $330 million granted this year to the pandemic, as donors chose to designate grants “where most needed” while $184 million was specifically designated to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Every geographic region increased its grant volume by 28 percent or more over the same period in 2019.

Grants to free food programs totaled almost $75 million compared with $9.7 million in 2019. Free food programs saw exponentially larger support compared to the previous year:

  • Mid-Atlantic, $22.6 million, +882 percent
  • Southwest, $6.5 million, +735 percent
  • Midwest, $8.9 million, +728 percent
  • Northeast, $9.5 million, +588 percent
  • Pacific, $18.3 million, +582 percent
  • Southeast, $6.6 million, +517 percent
  • Rocky Mountain, $1.7 million, 352 percent

Donors supported nonprofits within their home states with almost half of commended grant dollars, the same rate as 2019.

This year, human services became the most popular charitable sector in 21 states, especially in the Pacific, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions. In a typical grantmaking year, religion is the most popular sector receiving grants in a majority of states, particularly in the South and Midwest, according to the report. Education is more heavily supported in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Nationally, education and religion tend to be the most popular among Fidelity donors, by percentage of giving accounts that support a nonprofit in the category.

Free food programs saw a 667-percent increase in recommended grants nationwide compared to 2019, with 1,000-percent increases in 11 states.

Education was the only sector that experienced a slight decrease in support from the previous year. That was largely due to the Northeast region, where education is typically a popular granting area, according to the report. Thirty-nine percent of Giving Accounts in the Northeast made grant recommendations to the education sector in the beginning of 2020, a decline from the 46 percent that did so in 2019. This could indicate that donors in the Northeast redirected some of education support to human services organizations as they weathered widespread outbreaks of COVID-19, according to the report.

The report also breaks down giving by each state within the region and the most popular sector and charities in each state.