In 2015, donor-advised-fund grant dollars, total contributions and charitable assets grew significantly, according to National Philanthropic Trust’s annual report, released this week.

Individual DAF accounts are the fastest-growing vehicle in philanthropy, NPT reported, and the rising value of charitable dollars granted also makes them the most active type of charitable giving vehicle.

DAFs’ phenomenal growth showed itself in another way this year when Fidelity Charitable, a DAF sponsor, passed United Way as the nation’s biggest charity.

NPT’s 2016 report, which is based primarily on data from IRS Form 990 filings, examined 1,016 charitable organizations that sponsor DAFs, including 48 national charities, 608 community foundations and 360 single-issue charities.

Following are key highlights from the report:

  • The number of DAF accounts in the U.S. grew by 11.1% from 2014 to 269,180
  • DAF assets increased by $8.4 billion, or 11.9%, to an all-time high $78.6 billion
  • DAF grants to qualified charities totaled some $14.5 billion, up 16.9% from 2014
  • Contributions to DAF accounts increased by 11.4% to a record $22.3 billion
  • The average account size increased to $ 235,727 from $216,760 in 2014

American donors contributed an estimated $373 billion to charity in 2015, according to Giving USA.

“While the motivations for giving have stayed the same for centuries, the methods have evolved,” NPT’s chief executive Eileen Heisman said in a statement. Donors today are highly engaged in their giving, and DAFs provide the flexibility and management they are looking for.

Heisman said DAFs’ double-digit growth showed that the next generation wanted to be closely connected with their philanthropy. “The steady grant payout rate across economic cycles demonstrates their dedication to giving.”

For 2015, the DAF grant payout rate was 20.7%. This compared the payout rate at a typical private foundation “usually around 5%, which include operational expenses percent,” according to the report.

Going Forward

The NPT report predicted continued growth in contributions to DAFs, albeit at a much lower rate. The five-year compound annual growth rate from 2010 to 2014 was almost 21%.

At the same time, it predicted continued increase in grant making, which is already underway, and in payout rates. The five-year compound annual growth rate for grants was 14.5%.

The report said it expected donors to continue to fund their DAF accounts with illiquid gifts in coming years.

It said the trend of turning complex assets into charitable dollars was directly related to economic growth, where events, such as mergers and acquisitions, companies going public and increased real estate values, were creating new wealth.

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