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Donors across the U.S. increased their charitable giving during the first four months of the year as the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic disrupted medical systems and caused unprecedented unemployment, Fidelity Charitable reported Friday.

At the same time, donors’ support of nonprofits overall held steady at normal levels.

The analysis examined the grantmaking activity of some 140,000 Fidelity Charitable giving accounts from Jan. 1 to April 30, in comparison with the same time period in 2019.

Grant volumes recommended by donors in every region increased by 28% or more. In the first four months of the year, donors nationwide recommended 544,000 grants totaling $2.4 billion, up 16% from the same time period in 2019, despite a stock market collapse in March and widespread fears of an economic recession.

Giving to the human services sector, which includes organizations that address food and shelter insecurity, skyrocketed in the first four months of 2020, making it the most popular charitable sector in 21 states and the District of Columbia, compared with only seven states last year.

Nationally, grants to free food programs from more than 18,000 giving accounts totaled nearly $75 million in the January-to-April period, up from some $10 million during the same period in 2019.

But even as grant dollars to free food programs increased by 667% nationwide, donors sustained or increased support for all nonprofit sectors.

The single exception was the education sector. Fidelity Charitable suggested that the decrease may have been the result of donors in the Northeast reallocating their support to human services organizations as they weathered widespread outbreaks of COVID-19.

“Support for all charities is good news for a nonprofit sector struggling to deliver their services at a time of strained resources and increased need,” Pamela Norley, president of Fidelity Charitable, said in a statement.

“We continue to challenge our donors to support charities throughout the year. The nonprofit sector is the nation’s third largest employer and represents about 10% of America’s workforce. It must be sustained.”

According to the analysis, 49% of grant dollars in the first four months of the year went to charities within a donor’s home state, the same rate as in 2019, which indicated that the pandemic did not affect donors’ approach to giving locally vs. nationally or internationally.

However, grants specifically designated for COVID-19 response deviated from those patterns, with areas that experienced higher caseloads, such as New York, keeping more of their pandemic-designated support closer to home.

In other areas of the country that were less hard hit during the first four months of the year, a greater percentage of coronavirus-designated support went to out-of-state nonprofits, indicating they may have been directed to help harder hit areas, Fidelity Charitable said.

A report released Friday said there had been a surge in new coronavirus cases in parts of the country that had been less hard hit earlier on, with Arizona, Florida and Texas being especially affected.

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