Originally Posted by CoolChange
It sounds like Fidelity Charitable is in my future; this is likely the year it will make sense.
I have a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at Fidelity Charitable too. While it is a tad - and only a tad - more expensive than the Vanguard equivalent, Fidelity Charitable is more flexible in terms of its lower dollar requirements for fund contributions and charitable grants (just as 2B says).
I opened my account at Fidelity in 2011. With it I can "pre-fund" future charitable contributions but get the tax deduction now during my last few years of work when my income is higher. This is particularly useful since I am subject to AMT. I get a 42% tax deduction today (federal AMT plus state) instead of the lower expected tax deduction when I am retired (potentially as low as 0% if I no longer itemize).
And it gets better. It is fairly easy to contribute shares of stocks or mutual funds that have unrealized capital gains. This allows one to get the higher charitable deduction and
avoid taxes on capital gains. Double win. Of course, one does not need a DAF to donate appreciated shares. But the DAF makes the process easier, since it is streamlined to do this. My recent contributions to Fidelity Charitable have been with appreciated Vanguard mutual fund shares. The process has taken only about a week to complete, probably because the two biggest fund companies are involved. The only real difficulty is the need to get a "Medallion Signature Guarantee" (I have obtained mine at a local Fidelity office, which then mails in my contribution forms for me).
I am very satisfied with the DAF concept. The investment options at Fidelity Charitable, while not extensive, are quite satisfactory (e.g., low-cost index funds are available). I have yet to make actual charitable grants using my DAF account (still writing/mailing checks from my credit union), but the process appears to be very user friendly. It could be a useful method to make charitable contributions even without the tax advantages.