Family Influence Plays Growing Role in Giving Decisions, says Fidelity Charitable Giving Report

charitabletrusts_article355x209newA study of the donors who advise on donor-advised funds at Fidelity Charitable, an independent public charity that operates a national donor-advised fund program, gives an unparalleled view into how donor-advised funds are being used for charitable giving. The 2014 Fidelity Charitable Giving Report profiles donor demographics and giving patterns, shares new data on the pace of grants and reports the results of a survey on the role of family in philanthropy.

Family Influence Plays Growing Role in Giving Decisions

“We often see families use their donor-advised funds to come together around a common cause, honor a family member, or prepare the next generation to continue the family’s charitable legacy,” said Amy Danforth, president of Fidelity Charitable. “Our donors’ strong commitment to inspiring and teaching the next generation to give is a positive sign for the future of the charitable sector.”

A survey of more than 1,100 Fidelity Charitable donors found:

  • 94 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that they are teaching or have taught their children to give.
  • 65 percent discussed their charitable giving with family more than twice in the past year, including 17 percent who discussed the topic with family more than five times a year.
  • 78 percent say the causes they support reflect input from family members.

The survey also identified trends that suggested giving could take on a more central role in families in the future.

Younger donors – those under 50:

  • were one and a half times as likely as donors over 70 to strongly agree that they are teaching or have taught their children to give.
  • 78 percent discuss philanthropic strategies with family members at least twice a year.
  • 86 percent agree that their charitable choices are influenced by their family.

Most Contributions Granted Within 10 Years; Average Grant Volume, Size Rise

An analysis of the granting behavior of more than 104,000 donors connected to nearly 64,000 Giving Accounts, many of which have more than one individual with advisory privileges, showed the vast majority of donors are actively recommending grants while some also use their donor-advised funds to pursue longer-term giving strategies. The analysis found the:

  • average number of grants per Giving Account continued a steady rise to eight grants per year in 2013, up from seven in 2012.
  • average grant size was $4,017, a 6 percent increase from the previous year.
  • majority of incoming contributions are fully expended as grants within a decade. For example, 91 percent of contributions made from 1996 through 2000 were granted to charities by the end of 2010.

Donors Plan Ahead & Recommend Gifts Be Used Where Needed Most

Donors frequently take advantage of the ability to recommend grants in advance or for distribution on a recurring basis to have a consistent charitable impact for causes they support.

  • 110,000 grants, representing 21% of total grants, were recommended on a pre-scheduled basis.

Grants designated to go “where needed most” rather than to a specific purpose are especially welcome by many charities because of the flexibility they provide to help meet urgent needs.

Grants designated to be used “where needed most” accounted for:

  • 41 percent of grants overall.
  • more than 50 percent of grants to charities in the human services and environment and animals sectors.
  • 29 percent of grants to charities in the religion and education sectors.

Range of Causes Expands with Age

An analysis of grants by donor age showed that older donors recommend grants across a wider range of charitable sectors than younger donors. Donors under 50 were most likely to recommend grants to the education, human services and religion sectors. Donors older than 50 supported those sectors at similar or slightly increased frequencies, but recommend grants more frequently to charities in other sectors as well.