January 24, 2012

One of the Nation's Richest Charities Regains Its Fundraising Footing

Fidelity Charitable announced Tuesday that it is now raising more than it did before the recession started, a sign that at least some nonprofits can expect a thaw in giving among affluent donors.

The charity, which raises more than all but United Way Worldwide and the Salvation Army, announced that it had collected $2.9-billion last year, up from $1.6-billion in 2010 and $1.9-billion in 2007, before the recession took hold.

Most gifts to Fidelity are in the form of stock that has risen sharply in value, and last year's jump to $2.9-billion—an increase of about 80 percent—reflects rises in the stock market in the past few years, Fidelity officials said.  From March 2009 to the end of 2011, stocks grew in value by 86 percent.

Donors were not just pouring more money into their funds: They were also distributing more money to their favorite causes. The amount donors channeled to charities from their Fidelity accounts totaled $1.3-billion, another record that surpassed the $1.2-billion distributed in 2007.

Fidelity's data suggest that hard times have prompted some wealthy donors to shift support to charities that help the needy. By June 30 of last year, the dollar amount given to charities providing "community and human services" had grown by 11 percent over the previous 12 months. Those grants accounted for 27 percent of all Fidelity grants in that period, more than grants to educational (24 percent) or religious (11 percent) organizations.