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Advisors' Hand Seen in Bigger Gifts to Fidelity Charitable

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Contributions to Fidelity Charitable, the custodian and discount brokerage's donor advised fund, hit a record of nearly $2.9 billion last year, the fund says today. And the influence of financial advisors in managing their clients’ money appears to be making itself felt as well; Fidelity says the share of donations of $5 million or more has doubled since 2008; that shows more advisors are incorporating philanthropy into their conversations with high-net-worth clients, says Amy Danforth, senior vice president, marketing and program, at Fidelity Charitable.

The growth in $5 million-and-up donations last year was unprecedented, she says. It would help explain why the donor advised fund saw such an increase in giving in a year that was rocked by volatility and less-than-stellar market performances. (2010 saw just $1.6 billion in contributions.) It’s a strong stock market that typically precedes generous giving. “If we had improved conditions, I think the numbers would be even higher,” Danforth says. More than half of Fidelity Charitable’s business comes from advisor referrals, she adds.

Donations of appreciated securities accounted for 71 percent of what the fund received, up from 51 percent in 2010. The donation of complex securities—privately held stock, limited partnerships, and real estate, for example—don’t account for a large share of donations, but they were up sharply as well; $113 million’s worth, compared to $86 million in 2010.

Fidelity clients who contributed to the fund last year also were more generous in their donations from the fund to charitable causes: 380,000 grants totaling $1.3 billion, both up about 8 percent from 2010. New accounts were up 14 percent last year (An earlier post here mistakenly said that accounts were up by 14,000.)

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