scorecardresearch Skip to main content

At Fidelity Charitable, these are Boston’s most popular nonprofits

Billionaires dominate the philanthropy headlines. But donor-advised funds like Fidelity Charitable have become an important vehicle for the type of everyday giving millions of Americans do each year.

Breaking away: The Pan-Mass Challenge bike-a-thon was the most popular local nonprofit among donors giving through Fidelity Charitable last year.Matthew Healey

You can learn something about a city from the charities it rallies behind.

In the Indianapolis metro area, religious causes are big. In the District of Columbia and its suburbs, international affairs, fittingly, is the top charitable category.

And in Boston, one of the most philanthropic cities in the country, human services and education vie for the top rank, with health care not far behind.

These are some of the insights to be gleaned from the latest edition of “The Geography of Giving,” an analysis of contributions made through Fidelity Charitable, the giant donor-advised fund program established by Fidelity Investments.


Billionaires dominate the philanthropy headlines with huge gifts like the $300 million that hedge fund honcho Ken Griffin gave to Harvard in April or the $436 million check that MacKenzie Scott, the author and former wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, wrote to Habitat for Humanity International last year.

But Fidelity Charitable and about a thousand other donor-advised funds, or DAFs, have become an important vehicle for the type of everyday giving millions of Americans do each year.

Assets in DAFs reached $234 billion in 2021, according to the most recent data from the National Philanthropic Trust. Grants from DAFs rose 28 percent to $46 billion.

DAFs allow individuals to set up accounts with irrevocable, tax-deductible contributions of cash, stocks, and nonpublicly traded assets. Participants select how their funds are invested — gains add to the amount available to donate — and direct grants to any IRS-qualified charitable organizations.

Fidelity Charitable’s reports are instructive because the Boston organization is by far the largest DAF, with $48 billion in assets as of June 2022.

Officially known as Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund, the program has more than 300,000 donors with a median account size of just under $20,000. Grantmaking increased 9 percent to $11.2 billion in 2022, even though a falling stock market and rising inflation contributed to a rare down year for philanthropic giving overall. The average grant was $4,800, and account holders made an average of 11.8 grants.


In its latest review, Fidelity Charitable said donors seemed to respond last year to the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, devastation from natural disasters, and the financial hardships of inflation.

Nonprofits in the human services, health, and society benefit (civil rights, community improvement, social advocacy) sectors received a bigger percentage of grant money in 2022 than in the previous year, while education, arts and culture, and religion brought in less.”

Things that are going on in the world have [an important] place in philanthropy,” said Colby Bircher, vice president and charitable planning consultant at Fidelity Charitable.

In its breakout of 2022 giving in Boston, Fidelity Charitable said the most popular sectors — based on the percentage of local donors making a grant to them — were human services (62 percent), health (61 percent), and education (51 percent).

Among the 30 metros with the most Fidelity Charitable accounts, Boston had the highest percentage of donors to health-related causes and the second-highest percentage to human services and education. It also took the top spots in the arts and culture and environment and animals categories even though they were chosen by only about one-third of local donors.

Some 13,000 Fidelity Charitable accounts in the region made grants of $872 million, the highest tally after New York and San Francisco. Boston-area accounts sent 52 percent of their grant dollars to local nonprofits, compared with a national average of 39 percent. St. Louis showed the most hometown spirit, at 66 percent.


Based on percentage of donors making a grant, the most popular Boston-area recipients were:

  1. Pan-Mass Challenge
  2. The Greater Boston Food Bank
  3. WGBH Educational Foundation
  4. Boston University
  5. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  6. Mass General Brigham
  7. Pine Street Inn
  8. Rosie’s Place
  9. The Trustees of Reservations
  10. Harvard University

It’s a list that shows what our community values most.

Larry Edelman can be reached at Follow him @GlobeNewsEd.