National Philanthropic Trust Reaches $2 Billion in Charitable Gifts

The charity enjoys robust relationships with financial service companies

National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), a national public charity, announced Thursday that the organization had raised $2 billion in total charitable gifts since its inception in 1996.

NPT offers donor-advised funds (DAFs), supporting organizations and organization endowments to help donors with the administration and investment of their philanthropic dollars. It also provides fee-based services for donors, including educational seminars, a philanthropic news service, family meetings, site visit and research to leverage and enhance their giving.  

NPT said in its statement that its private-labeled DAF program has enabled the organization to maximize the value of its charitable assets in particular by partnering with big financial service companies to administer their national DAF programs. Its partners include Harris Bank, iShares, JPMorgan Chase, JP Morgan Securities, Pitcairn Financial Group and UBS.

Today, NPT finds itself among the 100 fastest growing charities in the U.S. and among the top 25 grant makers, according to the statement.

“NPT’s focus on fulfilling donors’ charitable goals, while investing and growing funds for the non-profit sector, has been a very successful model,” Eileen Heisman, NPT’s president, said in the statement.  “It has allowed NPT to make a positive impact on charities all around the world.”   

During the past 14 years, NPT has received contributions of $2 billion from individuals (about 90%) as well as foundations and corporations, and made more than 44,000 grants totaling approximately $1.1 billion, Heisman said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. At present, the organization has about $840 million under management after factoring in some market loss during the financial crisis, she said.

Most of the financial service companies that partner with NPT choose private-labeled DAFs, Heisman said. “When the large financial companies decided they wanted to get in the DAF business, they had the choice to build or outsource, and our partners chose to outsource.” In a variation in this relationship, NPT also offers a co-branding opportunity in the form of the Independent Charitable Gift Fund.

Although Heisman did not use the word “compete,” she said that NPT is in the marketplace with other charities and occasionally goes after the same dollars. The mutual fund behemoths Fidelity, Vanguard and Schwab all offer DAF programs, as do community foundations—some 650 around

the country—Jewish federations and several Ivy League schools, among others. Whereas community foundations are cause-focused in their locales, she said, NPT is donor-focused. “If the donor wants to give nationally, it’s good; if the donor wants to given internationally, it’s good with us.” Indeed, NPT’s ability to facilitate grants to foreign charities is attractive to many donors.

NPT does not take political positions. “We don’t have a regional point of view, we don’t have a specific cause we’re interested in,” Heisman said. “We’re basically neutral with regard to the charity itself. If it’s a legitimate 501(c)(3) that the IRS has approved, we will make the grant.”

Over the years, NPT has developed both a wholesale side—its partnerships with financial service companies—and a retail side—people who come directly to the organization—and intends to stay invested in both, Heisman said. Going forward, NPT will not add any other services or charitable products, such as charitable remainder trusts or charitable gift annuities, she said. “We’re going to stay very invested in the DAF world. It keeps us lean and mean. We do those, we do them very well and we’re really happy with having that kind of expertise.”

Heisman takes pride in NPT’s being fourth nationally. “We’re delighted actually to have as our counterparts three of the biggest mutual fund institutions in the country, and we’re able to keep pace in a reasonable way with them. We’re never quite as big, we’re growing at a good clip and I’m really proud of the work my staff does. “

She pointed in particular to Tom Grace, NPT’s chief operations officer whom she brought on board seven years ago. “It it weren’t for his ability to understand operations, I don’t think we would have gotten where we are,” she said. “I said if we’re going to be able to work with big financial services companies, we’re going to need to be able to scale. I know the charitable and DAF side like the back of my hand, but the scaling side was beyond me. Tom’s really a genius at that.”

Michael S. Fischer (msf7@columbia.edu) is a New York-based financial writer and editor and a frequent contributor to WealthManagerWeb.com.

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