Charity Donation Check Signature

2019 was a very good year for Fidelity Charitable, the nation’s largest donor-advised fund.

A total $7.3 billion was distributed in grants by donors, almost 40% more than the $5.2 billion disbursed in 2018, the previous record year, according to Fidelity’s 2020 Giving Report.

The recipients were 155,000 unique charities and the top three, in terms of donation size, were, in descending order, Doctors Without Borders USA, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and The Salvation Army followed by the American National Red Cross and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A small but growing portion of grants, nearly $39 million, went to impact-investing nonprofits — 2.5 times the amount of five years ago.

The average grant size was $4,358, and 60% of donors designated that the receiving nonprofit  use the money where it was needed most.

For millennials, who account for about 13% of Fidelity Charitable accounts opened in 2019 but only about 8% of the DAF’s distributions, the top three recipients were in descending order Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and Wikimedia Foundation, which funds Wikipedia and affiliated organizations, followed by Doctors Without Borders USA and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

“The millennial list is more strongly concentrated on organizations that focus on social issues, justice and civil liberties,” according to the report.

“Millennials are becoming more deliberate with their giving,” says Kristen Robinson, chief operating officer of Fidelity Charitable. “They give with their hearts and are opportunistic rather than strategic.” In other words they tend to donate when opportunities arise, such as funding a friend’s race for charity, rather than as a result of setting up a charitable giving strategy.

Fidelity did not release the total contributions for 2019, but its annual report covering the fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, showed a 5.4% decline in contributions to $8.55 billion.

More than 60% of contributions to Fidelity Charitable for all of 2019 were in the form of assets rather than cash, including 53% in publicly traded securities, which had benefited from a strong stock market. By donating appreciated stock that’s owned for more than one year, donors can avoid taxes on the capital gains and claim a tax deduction equal to the stock’s appreciated market valuation.

— Related on ThinkAdvisor: