What is Donor Advised Fund?

Donor Advised Fund

Philanthropy plays a vital role in addressing societal challenges, and one powerful tool that has gained significant popularity in recent years is the Donor Advised Fund (DAF).

This innovative vehicle empowers individuals to strategically manage their charitable giving, maximizing impact and creating lasting change. In this post, we will look into the intricacies of Donor Advised Funds, exploring their benefits, operational mechanisms, and the potential they hold for transforming philanthropy.

According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s Donor-Advised Fund Report, grants from DAFs to qualified charities reached an estimated $34.67 billion in 2020, marking a 27.0% increase compared to 2019.

This figure sets a new high-water mark, representing the most significant increase in DAF grants seen in the past decade.

What is a Donor Advised Fund?

A Donor Advised Fund is a philanthropic giving vehicle that allows donors to contribute funds, receive immediate tax benefits, and then recommend grants to eligible charities over time.

Think of it as a charitable savings account, where individuals or families set aside funds dedicated to philanthropic purposes.

These funds are managed by sponsoring organizations, such as community foundations, universities, or specialized charitable organizations, which administer the DAF on behalf of the donor.

Benefits of Donor Advised Funds


Donor Advised Funds offer unparalleled flexibility. Donors can contribute a wide range of assets, including cash, stocks, real estate, or even non-publicly traded assets, to their fund.

This allows donors to align their giving with their overall financial and estate planning strategies while optimizing their tax benefits.


Establishing a Donor Advised Fund is a straightforward process, often requiring minimal paperwork and administrative burden.

Once the fund is established, the sponsoring organization handles all administrative tasks, such as record-keeping, investment management, and grant distribution.

This simplicity frees up donors to focus on their philanthropic goals and impact.

Immediate Tax Benefits

One of the primary incentives for donors to contribute to a Donor Advised Fund is the immediate tax deduction they receive upon their initial contribution.

By contributing appreciated assets, donors can also avoid capital gains taxes, maximizing the value of their charitable giving.

Strategic Philanthropy

Donor Advised Funds enable donors to take a thoughtful and strategic approach to their charitable giving.

Donors have the opportunity to research and evaluate charitable organizations, ensuring their grants align with their values and desired impact areas.

This strategic approach fosters a deeper sense of engagement and satisfaction in the giving process.

How Donor Advised Funds Work

What is a Donor Advised Fund?

When a donor establishes a Donor Advised Fund, they contribute assets to the fund, and the sponsoring organization manages the investments and assets within the fund.

Donors can then recommend grants to eligible charitable organizations. The sponsoring organization conducts due diligence on the recommended grants to ensure compliance with legal and tax regulations.

Once approved, the sponsoring organization distributes the grants to the chosen charities.

It’s important to note that while donors can recommend grants, the sponsoring organization maintains legal control over the funds and the final decision-making authority.

This structure ensures the continued charitable purpose of the funds and compliance with tax laws.

Impact and Future Potential

Donor Advised Funds have witnessed exponential growth in recent years, underscoring their potential to drive positive change.

According to Giving USA, the estimated total charitable giving in the United States reached $471.44 billion in 2020. Of this amount, contributions to Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) accounted for $47.85 billion, representing approximately 10.1 percent of the overall charitable giving landscape.

Furthermore, Donor Advised Funds have also been instrumental in facilitating innovative philanthropic strategies.

For example, they have been used to support impact investing, where funds are invested in projects or companies that generate both financial returns and measurable social or environmental benefits.

This approach allows donors to align their investments with their philanthropic goals, amplifying their impact.

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