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Donors Giving More to Charity in 2011: Fidelity Charitable

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Four out of five philanthropically minded Americans will donate the same or more this year, and nonpolitical charities will benefit even in an environment of unprecedented political fundraising requests, according to the Fidelity Charitable Giving Season Survey.

For the second consecutive year, giving is trending higher, according to the survey, up by nine percentage points over 2011, which saw an 18-point increase over 2010.

The results showed that on average, Americans expected to give $2,400 to charity this year, compared with $2,100 last year.

Fidelity Charitable sponsored the study of 571 Americans in October to explore behaviors and motivations around charitable giving. Forty-two percent of survey respondents cited improved personal economic reasons for giving more, including a new job, a raise or lower household expenses.

For those who donated or planned to donate to a political campaign, 89% said this had not negatively affected their charitable giving.

Most respondents also said that charitable tax breaks had not influenced their giving. Three-quarters disagreed when asked whether they had donated to charity to get a tax deduction.

Indeed, the survey found that a strong family connection influenced which causes to support and encouraged a family tradition of philanthropy. Forty-four percent of respondents strongly agreed that they donated to charity to set a good example for their family or community.

Seventy-one percent said they were prompted to give by a life event such as an illness or death among family or friends. And 67% described giving as a holiday tradition in their family.

More than four-fifths of donors surveyed said their parents had taught them to give, and 78% had taught or were teaching their children to do so, with 71% of these encouraging their children to volunteer time.

Other activities they cited were donating from allowances or a job (61%), volunteering as a family (61%) and giving children money to donate (49%).

This year’s upward giving trend showed up in Fidelity Charitable’s own activities. The donor-advised-fund sponsor reported Wednesday that its outgoing grants to charities and incoming contributions were at record levels.

Through September this year, donors had contributed $1.2 billion in new charitable dollars, up 63% over the same period in 2011. At the same time, grants had risen by 16%, with $961 million given to 256,000 nonprofit organizations.

In a statement, Fidelity Charitable said it had passed the $1 billion milestone for outgoing grants in October, the earliest $1 billion in grants has been achieved in the charity’s 20-year history.