Vanguard Charitable survey: More than 1 in 3 American donors gave half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts in the last year

May 19, 2022

Donate Icon 64% of American donors diversified their giving strategy to include new charities


Malvern, Pa., May 19, 2022 – More than 1 in 3 (37%) American donors (defined as those who donated to charity in the past 12 months) gave half or more of their charitable contributions to disaster relief efforts in the last year, such as the Ukraine humanitarian crisis, COVID-19 relief, and relief in the wake of natural disasters like wildfires or other crises. The online survey of more than 1,300 American donors conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable, a leading nonprofit that administers donor-advised funds (DAFs), also found that 64% of American donors gave to a charity that they had never donated to before, with the top reason for doing so being a reaction to a recent local, national, or global disaster (42%). 


“From COVID-19 to a devastating humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, we’ve seen donors respond to disaster relief needs in inspiring and meaningful ways,” says Rebecca Moffett, president of Vanguard Charitable. “In fact, this data reflects that disaster relief support is an integral part of the giving landscape, often increasing total generosity as donors look to give when and where support is needed most. And because the money in donor-advised funds has already been set aside for charitable purposes, donations from DAFs tend to be more responsive in moments of crisis, and more resilient during moments of economic uncertainty.”


The survey found that the top reasons American donors who gave to disaster relief in the past 12 months did so were:

  1. They like to support those impacted by humanitarian crises (46%) 
  2. They felt overwhelmed by the situation and wanted to help (33%) 
  3. The only way they know how to support a disaster is by donating money (30%) or they or someone they know was impacted by a disaster/they have a personal connection to the disaster/crisis (30%).


Enhanced giving through disaster relief support


The survey found that donors who contributed to disaster relief efforts gave more overall, meaning that disaster relief giving did not take away from, or occur in place of, ongoing giving. 

  • Donors who gave to disaster relief and other charities donated 48% more in the past 12 months than those donors who did not give to disaster relief efforts ($1,880, on average, versus $1,268, on average).  
  • Disaster relief donors are significantly more likely than donors who did not give to disaster relief efforts to say they donated to a new charity in the past 12 months (80% vs. 39%).
  • Nearly a quarter (23%) of disaster relief donors say they have increased the amount of money they’ve donated overall in the past 12 months, compared to just 13% of donors who did not give to disaster relief. 
  • 23% of disaster relief donors say they donated to a greater variety of charities in the past 12 months than they’ve ever donated to before, compared with just 7% of donors who did not give to disaster relief. 
  • Over the past 12 months, more than one-third (36%) of disaster relief donors say they have become more aware of new and different causes and nonprofits in need of support, compared to just 21% of donors who did not give to disaster relief.


Enhanced giving through disaster relief support is evident in the story of Razom for Ukraine, a nonprofit that amplifies Ukrainian voices with a mission of building a more prosperous Ukraine.  


“It has been incredible to witness the global response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” said Dora Chomiak, president of Razom. “We have historically been an all-volunteer organization with about 4,000 donors and $150,000 in annual revenue. Since the war started, our organization has witnessed a surge in donations, receiving more than $50 million in funding from over 125,000 donors, driven significantly by donor-advised funds. DAFs offer a fast and effective way for us to receive donations and deploy them quickly to procure life-saving tactical medical supplies and deliver them to Ukrainians in hot spot areas, as Razom is one of the few organizations that is on the ground in Ukraine. We have seen tremendous generosity from Vanguard Charitable donors in every single state across the United States, representing over 5% of our recent funding, but we must keep going and not lose momentum as this unjustified war continues.” 


Vanguard Charitable donors have taken an active role more broadly in responding to a wide range of disasters and crises. Vanguard Charitable donors have granted more than $138 million to organizations focused on disaster relief efforts over the past 12 months.  

  • As of May 17, 2022, Vanguard Charitable donors granted more than $57 million through 5,487 grants to relief efforts in Ukraine to organizations such as World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders, and Direct Relief, among other nonprofits.  
  • Vanguard Charitable donors who gave to disaster relief donated twice as much to charity in the past year, compared to those who didn’t give to disaster relief efforts ($138,645, on average, versus $68,243, on average).
  • Of the Vanguard Charitable donors who granted to disaster relief efforts in the last 12 months, 74% gave to a charity they’ve never given to before.

Direct Relief, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency medical assistance and disaster relief in the United States and internationally, has benefited from Vanguard Charitable donors’ increased focus on disaster relief giving. 


“As Direct Relief has responded to disasters of increasing scale and frequency in recent years, donor-advised funds like those sponsored by Vanguard Charitable have proven to be powerful, essential catalysts for individuals to participate in the humanitarian response activities that are so critical to people whose lives are upended,” said Thomas Tighe, president and CEO of Direct Relief.  “Charitable giving is such a deeply personal act of generosity, and DAFs provide a safe, easy, efficient mechanism that has democratized philanthropy and allowed people to make their own decisions at their own pace. The spike in disaster giving from DAFs that Direct Relief has witnessed, including for Ukraine, has been hugely consequential in Direct Relief’s response. We have been able to deliver more than 350 tons of urgently needed medical material as well as over $10 million in emergency funding for local partner organizations doing essential work at high personal risk.”


Other key survey findings:

  • Donors continue to give generously: American donors, on average, gave $1,648 to charities in the past 12 months. 
  • A portion of donors are diversifying their giving: 20% of American donors say the majority or all of their donations in the past 12 months went to new charities they had never donated to in the past.
  • Donors are more engaged: More than a quarter (27%) of American donors say they have looked for more ways to give back to their local community in the past 12 months, and nearly three in 10 American donors (28%) say they have been more interested in learning how their giving is making an impact. 


As the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, climate change, and other disasters, sustained short- and long-term philanthropic giving will remain a critical component to safeguarding and revitalizing our communities. In an effort to support donors in their charitable missions, Vanguard Charitable launched the updated Nonprofit Aid Visualizer™ (NAVi) for Hunger & Homelessness in 2021. NAVi is a free, interactive web-based tool that better connects donors with nonprofits operating in geographic areas struggling with homelessness and hunger. 


For more information about Vanguard Charitable or giving through donor-advised funds, please visit


Survey method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Vanguard Charitable from April 7-11, 2022, among 2,067 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, among whom 1,341 donated to charity in the past 12 months. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Katie Miller at


About Vanguard Charitable


Vanguard Charitable is a leading U.S. nonprofit organization that fulfills its mission to increase philanthropic giving by administering a donor-advised fund—a tax-effective way to consolidate, accrue, and grant assets to charity. Since it was founded by Vanguard in 1997 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, Vanguard Charitable has granted more than $14 billion to charity. More information is available at

Published Date

1 Although Vanguard provides certain investment management and administrative services to Vanguard Charitable pursuant to a service agreement, Vanguard Charitable is not a program or activity of Vanguard. A majority of Vanguard Charitable’s trustees are independent of Vanguard. 


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