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Donor-Advised Fund Grants Surpassed $30B for First Time in 2020

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What You Need to Know

  • DAF donors gave generously in response to the pandemic, calls for racial justice and climate change, NPT’s chief executive says.
  • Donors contributed $47.9 billion to their DAF accounts last year, a 20.6% increase from 2019.
  • As DAFs become more mainstream, the number of accounts increases and the average fund size decreases, NPT noted.

Donor-advised-fund philanthropy in the U.S. continues to flourish.

The National Philanthropic Trust’s annual report, released this week, identified growth in all key metrics for the 11th consecutive year. 

“The 15th annual Donor-Advised Fund Report reflects DAF donors’ initial, very generous response to the COVID-19 pandemic, calls for racial justice and major climate change-related disasters,” NPT’s chief executive, Eileen Heisman, said in a statement. 

“What this report affirms is that DAF donors not only responded quickly but also gave with historic generosity to the causes that mean most to them.” 

The 2021 DAF Report, which primarily uses data from IRS Form 990 filings, examined 976 charitable organizations that sponsor donor-advised funds, including national charities, community foundations and other sponsoring charities. 

Up and Up

According to the report, grants from DAF accounts to qualified charities totaled $34.7 billion in 2020, up 27% from the year before. This was the biggest grantmaking increase in a decade and the first year grantmaking has exceeded $30 billion.    

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Donors contributed $47.9 billion to their DAF accounts last year, a 20.6% increase from 2019. Charitable assets in all DAF accounts totaled $159.8 billion, a 9.9% year-over-year increase. 

The report noted that continued growth of charitable assets under management reflects increases in the number of DAFs, contributions from donors and investment gains.  The number of DAF accounts in the U.S. totaled 1,005,099 last year, compared with 864,187 in 2019. This was the first time the number of DAF accounts exceeded 1 million. 

The average DAF account size in 2020 was $159,019, down 5.5% from 2019. NPT pointed out that as DAFs become more mainstream, the number of accounts increases and the average fund size decreases.

The grant payout rate — the percentage of total charitable assets at year-end that a charitable sponsor grants from a DAF to qualified charities — increased to 23.8% from 22.3% in 2019. 

NPT said the DAF grant payout rate has exceeded 20% for every year on record, demonstrating that DAF donors are a consistent, sustainable resource of charitable support.  

“As the number of DAF accounts in the U.S. surpasses one million, we observe that this charitable giving vehicle is filling a need for donors whose goal is to be active philanthropists and now increasingly for businesses and corporations who offer DAFs as an employee benefit,” Heisman said.