Giving to the largest U.S. charities totaled a record $108.7 billion in 2016, up from $104 billion in 2015. And for the second year in a row, Fidelity Charitable topped the list of the largest four hundred charities, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports.
According to the trade publication's Philanthropy 400, which ranks the largest charities by fundraising revenue, donor-advised fund manager Fidelity Charitable raised $4.1 billion in 2016, down 11.5 percent on a year-over-year basis but well above the $3.5 billion raised by United Way Worldwide, which saw its fundraising revenue fall 4.5 percent. The analysis also found that four hundred organizations on the list received 28 percent of all dollars donated to U.S. charities in 2016, while the top ten accounted for 22 percent of donations to all organizations on the list. According to Giving USA, giving to U.S. organizations in 2016 rose 1.4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Donor-advised fund managers continued to dominate the list, with Fidelity, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund (No. 3, $3.2 billion), Schwab Charitable (No. 6, $1.9 billion), the National Christian Foundation (No. 8, $1.5 billion), the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program (No. 10, $1.3 billion), and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (No. 9, $1.4 billion), which holds the majority of its assets in donor-advised funds, claiming six of the top ten spots. While as a group donor-advised fund managers registered a 19 percent increase in contributions, the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund leapt to third place, from thirty-fourth in 2015, with a 450.4 percent increase, the largest gain recorded by any organization on the list. In a statement, a spokesperson for the fund credited the gains to "philanthropic-minded families" but declined to discuss its performance in more detail.
Contributing to the increase are several trends, the Chronicle reports, including robust stock market returns and investment-minded donors pouring assets into donor-advised funds rather than traditional family foundations or looking for charities that can handle gifts of appreciated stock. Among the largest donor-advised funds, SVCF received 70.4 percent of its private support from gifts of stock, followed by Schwab Charitable (62.8 percent), Fidelity Charitable (60.9 percent), Vanguard (39.2 percent), and the National Christian Foundation (30.8 percent).
But while donor-advised managers that cater to high-net-worth individuals did well in 2016, social service nonprofits that rely on middle- and lower-income donors struggled. Of the forty-nine social service providers on this year's list, only twenty-five registered an increase in donations above the inflation rate of 2 percent, and eighteen of those were food banks or other groups that rely heavily on donated food and other products. At the same time, organizations working on issues targeted for action by the Trump administration — including the American Civil Liberties Union (No. 107, up 42 percent) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (No. 120, up 21 percent) — also saw increases in 2016, as did public affairs groups such as the Pew Charitable Trusts (No. 27, $694.9 million), which registered a 130.1 percent gain. Sally O'Brien, Pew's senior vice president for philanthropic partnerships, told the Chronicle that 80 percent of its private donations were gifts of at least $1 million.
"They want to get something done," said O'Brien, "and they're quite willing to take on bold and risky enterprises."