BOSTON – A new report has shed light on the charitable donation patterns of people who contribute to donor-advised funds operated through Fidelity Charitable, finding that many donors are older, actively engaged in philanthropy and clustered in large metropolitan areas, the charity announced Monday.
Fidelity Charitable’s donor-advised funds, a national program that provides an alternative to direct philanthropy, gave a total of 429,000 grants in 2012 amounting to more than $1 billion, a significant increase from the 154,000 grants issued in 2003.
The report found that donations remained steady or increased slightly even throughout the financial crisis, leading the study’s conductors to conclude that many donors used the donor-advised funds as “ready reserves” to maintain their philanthropy.
The study was intended to provide nonprofit organizations and charities with a clearer picture of their donors and of how they can best use donor-advised funds.
Though donors came from a diverse range of backgrounds, according to the study, which said that the typical primary account holder is 62 and established an account at age 54. Forty percent have had accounts for longer than a decade.
“The flexibility of donor-advised funds appeals to a wide range of people, but most gravitate to a DAF because of their desire to be thoughtful and systematic about their giving,” Sarah Libbey, president of Fidelity Charitable, said in prepared remarks.
The report also found that the average number of grants given continued to rise, reaching almost seven annual grants per account in 2012. Grants were an average size of $3,773 each.
It also showed a rise in the percentage of grants that were scheduled ahead of time or on a recurring basis: Scheduled grant recommendations made up 21 percent of all grants in 2012, a 4 percentage point increase from 17 percent in 2008.
There were some significant differences in the types of grants made that correlated with the size of the grants: donations to religious organizations were much more common from smaller accounts, whereas donations to education nonprofits were more popular from larger accounts. Other sectors, like arts and culture and international affairs, were not tied to account size.