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Donor-Advised Funds Surge to Record in 2016, NPT Reports

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Grants from donor-advised funds to qualified nonprofit organizations grew by 16.9% to a record $15.1 billion in 2016, according to National Philanthropic Trusts 11th annual DAF report.

Last year, total assets available for grant making increased to $85.2 billion, while contributions to DAF accounts grew to $23.3 billion.

DAFs, the report noted, continue to be the fastest-growing charitable giving vehicle in the U.S. with 284,965 individual accounts, a 6.9% increase from 2015.

“Donor-advised funds had another year of historic growth,” NPT’s president and chief executive Eileen Heisman said in a statement. “For the third year in a row, grant growth has outpaced contribution growth. Donors are actively using their DAFs to support charities domestically and around the globe after a period of extreme growth in DAF contributions and assets.”

Heisman noted that the DAF payout rate remained higher than that of private foundations — 20.3% vs. 6.2%. “More than ever, donors are invested in their charitable impact, short and long-term, and are using DAFs to do it.”

According to NPT, there were 83,276 private foundation in the U.S. in 2016, up from 81,483 in 2015. Foundation assets amounted to $753 billion, $24 billion more than in the previous year. Foundations granted $45 billion, compared with $44 billion in 2015.

The report said that the tax reform bill introduced in late 2017, if implemented, could reduce the tax benefits of giving to a DAF.

It predicted that as contributions slow, there will be a continued increase in grant making and a plateau in payout rates. Grants grew by 5.7% between 2015 and 2016, compared with a compound annual growth rate of 18.6% over the period 2012 through 2015.

The new report said total charitable assets available for grant making in all DAF accounts reached $85.2 billion, a 9.7% increase from 2015.

DAF grants to qualified nonprofit groups totaled $15.8 billion in 2016, up from $14.3 billion the previous year.

Contributions to DAFs totaled $23.3 billion, a 7.6% increase over 2015. The average DAF account size reached a record $298,809, a 2.6% increase from the previous year.

The report examined 979 charities registered under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that sponsor and/or manage DAFs. These included national charities, which are independent or are commercially-affiliated and national in reach, such as NPT, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Renaissance Charitable Foundation.

Organizations examined also included community foundations, which have a specific geographic or regional focus, and single-issue charities, which support a specific religious faith, focus on a particular issue area or cause or fund a specific institution.

The report said DAFs exist in every U.S. state, two territories and the District of Columbia, ranging from 82,643 individual funds in Massachusetts to 28 in Puerto Rico.

Nearly half of the 284,937 DAFs in 2016 were sponsored by charities in Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania — not surprising, NPT said, given that the biggest DAF sponsors are headquartered in those states.

(Related: Tax Loopholes for Wall Street’s Wealthiest Linger in Bill)


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