Despite the first quarter being a slower time for charitable giving, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund announced on Thursday that it had its strongest first quarter in its 20-year history.

Incoming contributions skyrocketed 25 percent from the first quarter of 2010, with $269 million in new charitable dollars. The number of outgoing grants and the amount of grant dollars were also the highest the Gift Fund experienced in a first quarter, with donors recommending $293 million in outgoing grants to nonprofits, soaring 8 percent from the first quarter of 2010.

“Donor momentum is very strong for this point in the year,” said Sarah Libbey, president of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, in a press release. “Many of our donors responded to the tragedy in Japan with disaster-relief and related grants, yet the level of overall activity indicates that more people are prioritizing charitable giving, making it part of their overall financial planning, and not just a year-end activity.”

Over 3,500 grants totaling $4.2 million were donated to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The Gift Fund saw incoming contributions of appreciated securities rise to 60 percent of total contributions, jumping from 46 percent in 2010 and 27 percent in 2009, due primarily to the rebounding stock market. Contributions of complex assets, such as privately-held C and S-Corp stock, limited partnership interests and certain publicly-traded stock nearly quadrupled relative to the first quarter of 2010.

“We are seeing a significant increase in donors leveraging a broader spectrum of

their assets, such as restricted stock and privately held securities, for charitable purposes.

This reflects continued strength in the mergers and acquisitions market, and also is a sign of more strategic charitable planning on the part of donors and their advisors,” said Libbey.