Fidelity Charitable, the second largest charitable donor after the Gates Foundation, has just released its fourth annual Giving Report, which analyzes the givers and receivers of the billions of dollars the donor-advised fund has collected and dispensed.
Since its inception 25 years ago, Fidelity Charitable has distributed more than $21 billion in grants to over 219,000 nonprofit organizations. In 2015, more than 80,000 accounts gave a total $3.1 billion to charities. Each donor made about nine grants averaging $4,200 each, but more than 60% of Fidelity Charitable gifts ranged from $50,000 to over $1 million.
Here are some of the more interesting findings from the report and gleaned from a conversation with Fidelity Charitable President Amy Danforth.
Dominance of Noncash Contributions
Close to two-thirds of the contributions to Fidelity Charitable’s Giving Accounts in 2015 were noncash assets – primarily publicly traded securities but also nonpublicly traded assets such as real estate, S corporate or C corporate shares and oil and gas interests. That’s up 18% from the previous year.
Such noncash donations have a notable tax advantage over the more traditional cash contributions. Donors not only get the usual immediate tax deduction for the charitable contribution but also a lower capital gains rate on the appreciation of those assets so long as they were held for over a year — a 20% rate for those in the top 39.6% income tax bracket and 15% for donors in most lower brackets. As a result, donors can give that much more to the charities of their choice.
“We have become a capital appreciation harvesting machine,” Amy Danforth, president of Fidelity Charitable told ThinkAdvisor. “Our donors tell us they would not be giving away these assets except that it’s so easy.”
Indeed, 60% of Fidelity Charitable’ s donors have given appreciated assets compared to 20% of the general donor population, said Danforth. Since its inception 25 years ago, Fidelity Charitable has converted $3 billion of nonpublicly traded assets into dollars available for charitable grants.
Giving is Largely Local, Self-Directed and Often Part of a Legacy Plan
Half of the grant dollars distributed by Fidelity Charitable support charities in donors’ home states and almost 85% of the beneficiaries of Fidelity Charitable received donations from four or fewer accounts, indicating that they were not the big charities that are household names like Doctors Without Borders of the American Red Cross.
“It’s very personal, very local,” said Danforth, like the local women’s shelter or food bank or university endowment. “From the charity’s perspective, everyone has the opportunity to raise money.” Not surprisingly, most of the donors are self-directed. “Seventy-eight percent of the time donors tell us they know where they want the money to go,” said Danforth. But 42% of giving decisions were shared with others, primarily other household members, as opposed to just 28% for affluent donors overall. And 88% of grant recommendations from donors were done online through Fidelity Charitable’ s website or through DAF Direct, a free online tool nonprofits can add to their own websites.