(Photo: Shutterstock)

Donor-advised fund account holders at Fidelity Charitable and National Philanthropic Trust set records in 2018 for the number of grants recommended and total amounts donated, the two charities reported this week.

Last year, Fidelity Charitable made some 1.3 million donor-recommended grants, totaling more than $5.2 billion, $700 million more than in 2017. Grants went to 142,515 unique organizations in the U.S. and globally.

The three most popular grant recipients were Doctors Without Borders, American National Red Cross and The Salvation Army, according to the report.

“Last year we witnessed the enduring generosity of our donors who demonstrated their commitment to philanthropy and used their DAFs to recommend more grants than ever to support thousands of charities despite the uncertainty around tax reform and extreme market volatility during giving season,” Fidelity Charitable’s president, Pamela Norley, said in a statement.

“One of the inherent strengths of donor-advised funds is that they enable sustained philanthropy regardless of the market environment.”

Sixty-three percent of contributions to Fidelity Charitable last year were made in the form of more strategic noncash assets, including publicly traded securities and nonpublicly traded assets — private stock, restricted stock, limited partnership interests and Bitcoin.

According to the report, nonpublicly traded assets topped $1 billion in gifts to Fidelity Charitable in 2018. Since inception, it said, the DAF sponsor has converted more than $6 billion in nonpublicly traded assets into dollars for charity.

Last year, Fidelity Charitable made 4,458 donor-recommended grants to impact investing nonprofits, totaling more than $22 million. Support for impact investing nonprofits has nearly doubled in the last five years.

The report noted that the increasing popularity of these investments among Gen Xers and millennials signals that impact investing is moving from a trend to a widely accepted strategy among donor-investors at all levels.

In 2018, charitable dollars in Fidelity Charitable giving accounts allocated to impact investments increased by 16% to nearly $1 billion. The organization launched three new impact investment pools in 2018.

National Philanthropic Trust — which publishes an annual report on the donor-advised-fund sector — issued $1 billion in grants on behalf of its donors in 2018, a 12% increase over the year before.

A record 46,452 grants, up 28% from 2017, went to charities in the U.S. and some 70 other countries on six continents.

NPT’s donors supported a wide range of organizations, including those that assisted victims of the California wildfires, tackled social justice issues in Chicago and promoted children’s health in Beijing.

New tax laws spurred interest in DAFs, according to NPT’s chief executive Eileen Heisman. “We expect grant-making will continue to grow as new donors harness the power and flexibility of their DAFs to support their favorite causes.”

NPT’s report said donors contributed $2.6 billion to their accounts last year, an 8% increase over 2017. The number of DAF accounts grew by 24% to 7,956.

NPT’s British affiliate, NPT UK, also saw record grant-making last year. The London-based charity made 394 grants totaling some $16 million, year-over-year increases of a 37% and 74%, according to the report.