Total charitable impact


Vanguard Charitable donors break record for grants in 2017, top $7 billion since inception

February 23, 2018


Vanguard Charitable saw remarkable growth throughout 2017, but it was the increase in grantmaking that made the most significant impact. Donors granted nearly $873 million in calendar year 2017, a record a single year and a 28% increase over the previous year. The number of individual grants, meanwhile, increased 25% over the previous year, up to nearly 100,000. In total, Vanguard Charitable donors have granted more than $7.2 billion since our inception.


The last calendar year was a wild one for philanthropically-minded individuals who navigated tax reform uncertainty, market highs, and a long string of disasters beginning in August. Vanguard Charitable donors did not hesitate to support disaster relief in the wake of several devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires that wrought destruction across much of the United States and beyond.



This past year was a great example of Vanguard Charitable donors acting on a strategic giving plan while also having the ability to react quickly to a call for help,” said Vanguard Charitable President Jane Greenfield. “By setting funds aside that are solely earmarked for charity, our donors were able to remain nimble and respond to immediate needs, such as disaster relief, while still maintaining their long-term plans.”


The ability to be flexible in responding to urgent needs is one benefit of using a donor-advised fund for philanthropy. While individuals who give from checkbooks may experience “giving fatigue” when disasters seem to come one after the other, a Vanguard Charitable donor is uniquely positioned to rapidly disburse assets already earmarked for philanthropy as needs arise.



Vanguard Charitable also ended the year with strong growth in both new accounts and contributions, as individuals balanced robust market returns with the uncertainty of a new tax bill. Facing a change in future tax planning and filing, individuals and families realized the value of a Vanguard Charitable donor-advised fund, opening nearly 3,000 new accounts. This represents a 22% increase in total accounts over 2016. More than 2,300 accounts were established in the final days of the year, no doubt in response to the new tax bill, passed on December 20.


Donor contributions also hit a record high of $1.5 billion, with contributions in December alone increasing 35% over 2016. Approximately 80% of these assets came in the form of appreciated securities as donors took advantage of the favorable market.


“The opportunity to separate the timing of a tax deduction from granting decisions is powerful,” said Jane. “It puts you in a position to be more thoughtful about the impact you want to have. Add to that the ability to donate appreciated securities, along with the tax-free growth of investments in your account, and you have a lot of charitable firepower to help you achieve your philanthropic goals.”  



Said one longtime Vanguard Charitable donor, who wished to remain anonymous:



With the new tax law, the nonprofit industry faces uncertainty.  By working with a donor-advised fund, you can develop and enact a charitable plan to protect your favorite charities and causes from any lean times in the years to come.


To learn more about strategic granting and how best to support charity, please visit our Resource Center.



1Figures as of December 31, 2017.  Grant totals for disaster relief continue to climb in early 2018.