Fidelity DAFs Pumped $4.5 Billion Into Nonprofits

Contributions to Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest commercial donor-advised fund (DAF), jumped almost 30 percent last year, including a tenfold increase in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, and noncash donations of almost $1 billion.

Fidelity Charitable today released its 2018 Giving Report, detailing $4.5 billion distributed through more than 1 million donor-recommended grants to almost 127,000 nonprofits during 2017. The value and number of grants increased 25 and 27 percent, respectively, over 2016.

Contributions to the DAF for calendar year 2017 totaled $8.5 billion, which are unaudited figures. That would be an increase of almost 29 percent compared to the $6.6 billion in contributions in 2016. Boston, Mass.-based Fidelity Charitable files its federal tax Form 990 based on a fiscal year that ends June 30.

The appreciation of noncash assets a big driver of giving, covering a record $916 million of non-publicly traded assets into DAF contributions. That sum included $69 million in cryptocurrency, almost 10 times as much as the $7 million that was contributed in 2016. Noncash assets also included private stock, life insurance policies and even bags of grain, according to Fidelity Charitable.

Fidelity Charitable saw 30,000 new donors across more than 21,000 Giving accounts, an increase of 83 percent from 2016. Multiple donors can be named on one account, which is not uncommon. Some 56 percent of account balances were less than $25,000. There were 505 grants of $1 million or more, an increase of 25 percent compared to 2016.

The report indicates an “upward trajectory of charities specifically focused on targeted issues,” such as disaster relief, civil liberties and the environment. There were nearly 180,000 donors and more than 108,000 giving accounts. One in 10 accounts supported disaster relief causes last year, with a total of almost $60 million through more than 21,000 grants in support of disaster relief causes.

The top three most popular charities last year among Fidelity donors were American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders USA, and The Salvation Army. Other popular charities included St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Nature Conservancy, the ACLU Foundation and the American Heart Association.

Donor-advised funds have seen record contributions and distributions, partly attributed to robust stock market returns last year and tax reform measure passed in late 2017. With Fidelity’s preliminary totals for 2017 released, that puts total distributions at almost $8 billion for four of the nation’s largest DAFs, all of which reported increases:

On the contributions side, giving eclipsed $15.5 billion at the four DAF last year: