National Philanthropic Trust’s AUM Tops $1 Billion

The charity’s donor-advised funds continued to grow during recession

National Philanthropic Trust, an independent charity, has passed the $1 billion mark in assets under management, President and CEO Eileen Heisman said Tuesday.

NPT is the fourth-leading provider of donor-advised funds (DAFs) in the country (behind Fidelity, Schwab and Vanguard), and ranks among the 25 largest grant-making organizations. Its assets under management represent nearly 2,000 DAF accounts, including about 20 corporate accounts, Heisman told AdvisorOne in a telephone interview before NPT's announcement later this week.

During its 15-year history, NPT has raised more than $2.5 billion, and made some 55,000 grants totaling nearly $1.5 billion.

During the recent recession, Heisman (left) said, the DAF sector not only remained robust, but actually grew. She said that although many parts of the economy were suffering, 90% of the people in the country continued to work, and some of those were still accumulating wealth.

“Those who were accumulating wealth in excess of what they needed to live were still doing financial, estate and tax planning. DAFs are part of financial, estate and tax planning, and were being used,” Heisman said.

NPT’s program did not suffer during the past three years. “Our trajectory was going up,” Heisman said. With a minimum DAF account size of $25,000, “we tend to float up to the higher end of the marketplace, and there seems to have been engagement in philanthropic planning by those folks, and that was great for us.”

Since its founding in 1996, NPT has gone through two downturns—the dot-com bust and the recent recession—and still maintained traction, Heisman said. “A lot of people didn’t think we were going to survive because we were not attached to a large financial service company and because our model was really different, or if we did, we weren’t going to keep pace. We outperformed a lot of our early observers.”

She attributed this to NPT’s relatively small size and its mission-driven operations, which enable it to provide flexibility in its services “from orchestrating international grants and managing unique assets to providing quality experience for our clients.”

Also helpful, Heisman said, is the charity’s extensive private label program. “We white label DAFs for large financial institutions, and are the only ones in the country that do it at the volume we do it.”

NPT partners include Harris, JPMorgan, iShares and UBS. “Every time their clients decide to create a DAF, they’re actually making a gift to NPT,” she said. “So that distribution model has really worked for us, and it has enable us to have some amazing donors and some great long-term relationships.”

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