Boston nonprofits post record fund-raising years

Boston Foundation, Combined Jewish Philanthropies and Fidelity charitable arm’s benefited from the generosity

Three of Boston’s largest nonprofit foundations reported record gifts for the past fiscal year, as donors shared gains from a rising stock market and sought to get ahead of any potential changes in charitable tax deductions.

The Boston Foundation said it raised a record $131.7 million in donations in the past year, a 26 percent increase over the prior high in 2008, and double last year’s intake. And two other major Boston charitable foundations also saw record years — Combined Jewish Philanthropies and the Fidelity Investments arm that manages charitable accounts for clients.

Paul Grogan, chief executive of the Boston Foundation, one of the largest community foundations in the country, said suggestions in Washington earlier this year to limit the deductibility of charitable gifts drove a lot of giving in the year ending June 30.


“People pay attention,’’ Grogan said. “The tax encouragement that our society has created, and sustained for some time, is clearly important to the magnitude of philanthropy in our country.”

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All three groups run what are called donor-advised funds, which allow donors to get their tax write-off when they put the money in an account. The donors then typically approve grants over a period of succeeding years to the charities they want to help, from universities and health causes to arts organizations and civic groups.

Fidelity said donors deposited $3.65 billion in new gifts with the firm in fiscal 2013, up 11 percent from 2012. Outgoing grants rose 44 percent to $1.84 billion, also a record at Fidelity, the company said.

At Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the group raised $223 million in the 12 months that ended June 30, up 7 percent from its prior record in 2012. Of that sum, $48.7 million came from its annual capital campaign, while the lion’s share came from donors opening or adding to their accounts.

“A lot of those new funds came from younger, up-and-coming philanthropists,’’ said David Strong, CJP’s chief financial officer.


CJP’s total charitable assets under management now exceed $1 billion. The Boston Foundation’s are at nearly $900 million. Fidelity Charitable’s total assets are $10.1 billion, up 35 percent from a year ago, as a result of both market appreciation and new gifts.

Charitable giving had gained steam late in 2012 amid uncertainty about the US government’s fiscal cliff and after President Obama proposed capping the charitable gift deduction at 28 percent, instead of 35 percent, for families earning more than $250,000. While no such cap has been imposed, the issue could be resurrected.

Boston’s economy in particular is driven in large part by nonprofits, including universities, hospitals, and arts institutions, a point Grogan has emphasized in public comments this year. Charitable giving is “very important for Boston as a distinctive city,’’ he said.

Last year’s surge in gifts came as the broad economy was still recovering. The Boston Foundation, which manages donations for about 900 individuals and families, more than doubled its 2012 gifts to reach the latest year’s total of $131.7 million. Gifts had dropped off dramatically from $108 million in 2008, before the financial crisis, to $60.4 million last year.

Grant-making did not drop off in the downturn the way gifts did. For instance, funds directed from the Boston Foundation to individual charitable groups totaled $97.7 million in the past year, up slightly from $97.4 million in 2012.


Among other causes, the Boston Foundation and its donors gave $1 million last year to help seed the One Fund for victims of the Marathon bombings. CJP gave $400,000 to the One Fund.

Beth Healy can be reached at