It’s been a big year for Fidelity Charitable, which announced last week that they have awarded nearly $1.3 in grants in the first three quarters of 2013, a 33% increase in grant dollars over the same period last year. The 308,000 grants that have been given out also represent a 20% increase in grant volume, and the $1.3 billion in incoming contributions is an increase of 5% over last year.
Sarah Libbey, president of Fidelity Charitable, attributes uncertainty surrounding tax laws as a major reason for the increase. “Last year, amid the uncertainty surrounding tax laws for 2013, we saw many donors increase their giving and adopt a donor-advised fund for the first time,” she said. “Our new donors have jumped right into the grant making process…to support the causes that are important to them.” Also noted was the importance of Fidelity’s financial advisors in introducing their clients to donor advised funds and supporting their charitable planning; fully 60% of new accounts and 70% of contributions were attributed to an advisor referral.
Fidelity Charitable was established in 1991, and was the first national donor-advised fund, creating tax-deductible accounts for its customers, who use these accounts to make grants and donations to the charities of their choice. Fidelity Charitable has grown steadily since its inception, and assisted in giving more than $15 billion to charitable causes over the years, one billion of which has come from the investments generated from the funds residing in these charitable accounts.
Although the organization is reporting a sizeable increase in the volume of grants, it does not necessarily mean that the grants are small in size; in fact, 23% of the money going out were part of grants of $1 million or more, compared to 15% in the same period last year. While the organization does not do much in the way of recommending specific charities for the holders of donor-advised accounts to contribute to, they have developed materials to help their account holders find causes there are passionate about, evaluate non-profits, and achieve maximum impact for the size of their gifts, even holding teleconferences and webinars to discuss varying needs and opportunities. There is however one area that Fidelity Charitable does encourage its account holders to incorporate into their giving more than others, and that is disaster relief.
Anna Spangler Nelson elected Chair of Fidelity Charitable Board of Trustees
In addition to the announcement of their record-breaking year to date, Fidelity Charitable announced last week that Anna Spangler Nelson has been elected chair of the Board of Trustees. Nelson has been a trustee for Fidelity Charitable since 2005, previously serving as chair of the Governance Committee and on the Investment and Audit Committees. She runs a private investment firm, and currently serves on the board of a number of private businesses and foundations, including the C.D. Spangler Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Her philanthropic interests include education, community and human services, and arts and culture.