Donors Recommend $2.4B in Grants in January-April Period, Up 16%

By Alex Padalka July 1, 2020

Fidelity Charitable says its donors have significantly boosted grant dollars to all types of charitable organizations in light of the coronavirus pandemic — with support to free food programs soaring by almost 700%.

Donors have recommended a total of $2.4 billion in grants in the first four months of 2020, a 16% increase over the same period last year, “despite a stock market that plunged in March and widespread fears of an economic recession,” according to Fidelity Charitable, a 501(c)(3) public charity that pools donor money in a donor-advised fund called the Giving Account.

Grant volume, meanwhile, rose by 28% or more in every geographic region in the first four months of 2020, compared to the same period last year, according to an analysis of Fidelity Charitable’s internal reporting database of settled grants as of May 7. 

The pandemic didn’t affect the overall trends in giving locally versus nationally or internationally: 49% of the recommended dollars overall went to organizations in the donors’ home state in 2020, the same as it was in 2019, Fidelity Charitable says. 

But the Covid-19 crisis did change donors’ preferred area of support: While religion was the most popular charitable sector in the majority of states last year,  this year the most popular charitable sector in 21 states was human services, which includes organizations supporting vulnerable populations, according to the report. 

In particular, donors increased grant dollars to free food programs to $75 million around the nation in the first four months of 2020, an increase of 667% compared to the same period last year, Fidelity says. In 11 states, including Mississippi, Nebraska, Hawaii, Wisconsin and New Hampshire, grant dollars to such programs shot up more 1000% over 2019, according to the report. 

Local food banks were the most popular nonprofits among donors in 38 states and Washington, D.C., Fidelity Charitable says. 

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