DAFs Setting Records For 2017

February 6, 2018       Mark Hrywna      

Some of the nation’s largest donor-advised funds (DAFs) tallied total contributions of some $7 billion last yearand made grant distributions of almost $3.4 billion.

Three donor-advised funds have reported 2017 statistics, with the latest coming today from the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT). Contributions were up 41 percent during 2017, from $1.7 billion to $2.4 billion while the number of accounts jumped by one-quarter, from 5,154 to 6,430.

“There was a perfect confluence of events in 2017. Between the booming stock market, tax reform, the hedge fund repatriation deadline and heightened interest in donor-advised funds, it was a historic year for DAFs and for NPT,” said Eileen Heisman, CEO of the Jenkintown, Pa.-based National Philanthropic Trust.

A record 36,930 grants were issued to charities on behalf of donors in 2017, totaling more than $905 million, an increase of 53 percent compared to the $593 million in grants in 2016. The number of grants issued via NPT jumped by a third.

Among three of the largest DAFs, grants distributed eclipsed $3 billion combined, not yet including one of the largest commercial DAFs (Fidelity Charitable):

Contributions to those three hit $7 billion last year:

Those numbers don’t include Fidelity Charitable, which is the typically the largest DAF but has not yet reported 2017 results. In 2016, the Boston-based DAF reported $4 billion in donor contributions and $3.2 billion in grants to charities. Fidelity’s 2017 data likely would push the contributions total toward $12 billion among the four DAFs and the distributions close to $7 billion or more.

“Some donors looked beyond cash to make transformative charitable gifts. In the past few months we accepted illiquid contributions of appreciated artwork, jewelry and three different types of cryptocurrency,” she said.

As was the case at other DAFs, activity accelerated at the end of the year, ahead of changes in tax regulations in the new year. NPT hit record metrics in December, Heisman said. Contributions jumped 20 percent, grants increase more than 20 percent and new accounts were up more than 30 percent.

In 2016, 60 percent to contributions to Fidelity Charitable were noncash assets.

New accounts doubled in 2017, from 1,600 to 3,200 at Vanguard Charitable. Donors made almost 100,000 grants for more than $874 million, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year. In 2016, donors made 78,000 grants for almost $685 million. Donors contributed almost $1.5 billion to their DAF accounts compared to almost $1.4 billion the previous year, an increase of 16 percent.

More than 80 percent of contributions in December into Vanguard donor-advised funds came from noncash assets, about 2 percent higher than the same period in 2016. Noncash assets can include securities, restricted stock, and real estate. For the fiscal year ending June, noncash gifts comprised 64 percent of contributions last year, compared with 57 percent in 2016.

In September, Vanguard launched the GuideStar National Nonprofit Directory, a research tool featuring information on more than 2.6 million nonprofits. Embedded as part of Vanguard’s granting process and enables organizations to search for charities across 12 filters and view charities profile pages that provide information on mission, programs, financials, and operations. Donors have performed more than 75,000 searches, almost 600 per day, and view more than 24,000 charitable profiles.

  • donor-advised funds
  • Fidelity Charitable
  • National Philanthropic Trust
  • noncash assets
  • Schwab Charitable
  • Vanguard Charitable