Donations climbed 3 percent last year to $335.2 billion after adjusting for inflation, with almost all of the increase coming from individuals, couples and estates, according to the latest figures from the Giving USA Foundation. The gains have been uneven, however, skewed toward groups favored by the upper-income households that benefited most from the rebound in stocks and housing. Groups connected to higher education, medical research and cultural institutions are flush, while growth for those such as the Salvation Army and United Way that rely on smaller individual gifts is lagging behind.
Congress ended the week poised to revive a popular tax provision that encourages charitable donations of individual-retirement-account assets.
The charitable IRA rollover provision, which expired at the end of 2013, allowed IRA owners and IRA beneficiaries 70½ or older to donate up to $100,000 in IRA assets to charity without reporting the withdrawal as taxable income. Experts expect Congress to revive the provision, as it has several times in recent years.
Fidelity Investments, best known for mutual funds and retirement plans, now oversees more in charitable contributions than much better-known philanthrophic organizations such as the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross, and it is on the verge of surpassing the United Way. Last year, Fidelity's nonprofit, Fidelity Charitable, brought in $3.7 billion from clients, placing it second on The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s rankings of the country’s largest charities, just behind United Way.
No matter your take on them, donor-advised funds are a funding source fundraisers of all sizes and missions cannot afford to ignore.
Donor-advised funds have made it easier for moderately wealthy people to think of themselves — organically — as charitable investors and function with charitable giving as a part of their investment mindsets. Whether you think DAFs pay out enough or not, their impact is in making charitable giving for moderately wealthy people easier, more strategic and more natural. For charities interested in reaching individual donors, getting comfortable with donors who give through donor-advised funds has to be a top priority in the new world of fundraising.
Fidelity Investments released results of its sixth Fidelity Millionaire Outlook, an in-depth survey analyzing the investing attitudes and behaviors of millionaire households. A key finding is that Gen X/Y millionaires are generous with time and money, averaging $54,000 in donations to charity each year and having a higher likelihood to volunteer or serve on a nonprofit board than baby boomers (82 percent vs. 49 percent).
Tax uncertainty in Washington, D.C., is setting off a mad scramble among wealthy taxpayers and charities to maximize donations before the end of the year. The tax deduction for charitable giving is coming under pressure as part of a broader fiscal agreement now being hammered out on Capitol Hill. The possibility of a deduction limit is prompting many charities to ramp up their collection efforts. Many taxpayers are piling into "donor-advised" funds to donate now and secure a full deduction for 2012.
Fidelity Charitable, the nation's largest donor-advised fund program, reported that despite continued economic challenges, American donors surveyed this month report they remain committed to charitable giving, planning ahead for it and giving even where there is no expectation or incentive to do so. In addition, the majority of American donors (72 percent) plan to maintain or increase their level of charitable giving this year compared to last year. This number is up from 63 percent in 2010.
Donor-advised funds are benefiting from small family foundations' closing or suffering drops in endowment assets as the costs and administrative burden of running the foundations have become too great.
“Families with private foundations are increasingly deciding to unwind foundations into donor-advised funds,” said Laura Solomon, an attorney at Laura Solomon & Associates who works with a few hundred charities and foundations. “The funds offer a cheaper solution with less administrative hassle and still allow families to further their charitable mission.”
Donors to the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund made more than 353,000 grants totaling over $1.2 billion to nonprofits nationwide during 2010, up 19 percent and 14 percent, respectively, compared to 2009, the fund said.
Incoming charitable contributions surpassed $1.6 billion during 2010, representing a 42 percent increase compared to 2009. This is the sixth consecutive year that the Gift Fund has accepted more than $1 billion in contributions from donors.