Pioneering DAF Research Released Today

By Jim Bush, Principal and President, Editorial Review Board Member for Giving USA

The Giving Institute released today their Special Report on Donor Advised Funds. The study—the largest of its kind to date—analyzed $75 billion in grant dollars from DAFs made to more than 240,000 recipient nonprofit organizations between 2014 and 2018.

As members of the Giving Institute, the Winkler Group had an advanced look at the groundbreaking research. Here are our key takeaways:

  • Education received the majority of DAF grants (29 percent)—more than twice the percentage of total U.S. philanthropic giving to education (14 percent of all philanthropic giving is allocated to education according to Giving USA). Colleges, universities, and independent schools have real opportunities for growth in giving from DAFs.
  • Total U.S. philanthropic giving to religion as measured by Giving USA averaged 31 percent between 2014 and 2018. In comparison, DAF gifts to the religion subsector comprised only 14 percent of total gifts.
  • The arts received 9 percent of DAF giving as compared to 4 percent of total giving in Giving USA.
  • High-net-worth donors are more likely to give to education and the arts than to other sectors. DAF giving follows this same pattern.
  • Roughly 60 percent of grant dollars from community foundations went to local organizations.
  • Value of assets in DAFs grew from $31.1 billion in 2006 to $141.95 billion in 2019.
  • DAF giving to human service organizations grew 138 percent between 2019 and 2020. This sharp increase is likely due to pandemic response.
  • DAFs are rewriting the philanthropy landscape. They pose both challenges and opportunities for fundraising professionals. For example, DAF holders usually have multiple vehicles for their philanthropic giving and different giving strategies associated with each. DAFs cannot generally be used to make multi-year commitments like campaign pledges. And the most common challenge—determining and connecting with DAF holders whose philanthropic goals align with a nonprofit’s mission.

Because of the power of DAFs to impact the fundraising profession, the Winkler Group will be focusing on DAFs in the coming months—particularly their role in capital campaigns.

And if you want to talk through customized strategies—or see how you can better utilize DAFs—email me!

Best wishes for a productive end-of-the-year giving season.

About the Author

Jim Bush, Winkler Group Principal and President, has been a fundraiser for more than 30 years. Recognized as an expert in his field, he’s helped nonprofits, universities, and healthcare systems raise more than $300 million and increase their organizational capacity through strategic planning. A noted lecturer, trainer, and teacher, Jim’s articles on fundraising have been published in leading nonprofit journals. He serves on the Giving USA Editorial Review Board and holds a bachelor’s degree from Elon University.

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