Donors to the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund supported U.S. charities in record numbers in 2010, the Gift Fund reported Tuesday.

Donors to Fidelity’s donor-advised fund program made more than 353,000 grants totaling some $1.2 billion to nonprofit organizations nationwide during 2010, up 19% and 14%, respectively, compared with 2009. Both totals represent the strongest year for outgoing donations to charities in the Gift Fund’s history, according to the statement. This is the fourth consecutive year the Gift Fund’s donors advised grants of more than $1 billion to the causes they support.

The report also said that incoming charitable contributions surpassed $1.6 billion during 2010, representing a 42% increase over 2009. This is the sixth consecutive year the Gift Fund has accepted more than $1 billion in donor contributions.

“With demands on the nation’s charities as great as they’ve ever been, our donors gave at record levels in 2010—something we hope is a leading indicator for overall charitable giving in the U.S.,” Sarah Libbey, the Gift Fund’s president, said in the statement. “The level of activity we saw this past year illustrates the growing role of donor-advised funds such as the Gift Fund in charitable giving and also is a clear signal that Americans remain deeply committed to supporting causes they care about.”

The report said contributions to the Gift Fund in the form of appreciated securities—one of the most tax-advantaged ways to give—comprised 50% of total incoming contributions in 2010, up from 44% during 2009. In addition, contributions in the form of non-publicly traded assets, such as privately held C- and S-Corp stock and real estate, nearly tripled last year.

“Appreciated securities and non-publicly traded securities are the most strategic assets one can give—and the Gift Fund makes donating these types of assets easier,” Libbey said. “With the stock market and merger–and-acquisition activity up this year, we saw many more of our donors and their advisors take advantage of this smart way to give in 2010.”

The announcement said the Gift Fund made several enhancementsto its offering in 2010. These included the following:

  • Charitable Investment Advisor Program—The Gift Fund expanded this program to enable financial advisors to invest a portion of the Gift Fund’s charitable assets in alternative investments, including hedge funds, hedge funds of funds and private equity funds.
  • Private Donor Group—The Gift Fund introduced the Private Donor Group to support advisors and high-net-worth donors with at least $1 million in Giving Account balances, providing a dedicated relationship manager and service offering.
  • Philanthropic Advisor Network—As part of its Private Donor Group offering, the Gift Fund established a network of professional philanthropic advisory firms. Initially comprising 10 philanthropic advisors, the new offering provides a broad range of services, complementing the Gift Fund’s expertise, including helping to increase impact through strategic philanthropic planning and measuring, reporting and giving feedback on grant effectiveness.
  • Giving Strategies—The Gift Fund launched dedicated insights for donors and their advisors on the Giving Strategies section of its Web site. The strategies include a wide array of information on topics such as donating appreciated securities and the tax consequences of donating employee stock, restricted stock and non-publicly traded assets.
  • Online Appreciated Securities Tool—The Gift Fund added an online toolfor Fidelity Investments brokerage customers who have Giving Accounts. This enables them to identify which securities may be ideal to donate within their brokerage accounts, based on their appreciation and tax lot.

The year 2011 marks the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund’s 20th anniversary. In the interim, according to the Gift Fund, an independent public charity, it has helped donors support over 136,000 nonprofit organizations with more than $11 billion in grants to end charities. Various Fidelity companies provide investment management and administrative services to the Gift Fund.