DAF Accounts Totaled 873,228, Up 19.4%

Grantmaking from donor advised funds (DAFs) to qualified charities increased almost 30 percent, during the first six months of 2020, from $6.41 billion to $8.32 billion, according to the Donor-Advised Fund COVID Grantmaking Survey. It’s the first sector-wide review of grantmaking from DAFs to charities in response to COVID-19, released by the National Philanthropic Trust. The report covers Jan. 1 to June, 30, 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019.

Every subsector but arts and culture saw an increase in DAF grants during the first six months of 2020:

  • Human services, +79%, $663 million to $1.187 billion;
  • Health, +54%, $468 million to $722 million;
  • Other, +55.5%, $223 million to $347 million;
  • Public/societal benefit, +51%, $993 million to $1.409 billion;
  • International, +34%, $319 million to $427 million;
  • Environment/animals, +31%, $303 million to 397 million;
  • Religion, +28%, $699 million to $895 million;
  • Education, +4.8%, $2.133 billion to $2.236 billion;
  • Arts and culture, -9%, $520 million to $473 million;

“DAF donors did not necessarily shift their giving priorities amid the global pandemic, rather they continued to support the same causes and amplified their giving by granting to the urgent needs created by the pandemic,” CEO Eileen Heisman said via a statement accompanying the report.

The number of DAF grants in all eight charitable subsectors increased, ranging from 26% to 78%, and totaled 1.3 million, up 37.4% from the 945,044 in the same period in 2019. This represents a significant increase attributable to donor COVID-19 response. 

This Donor-Advised Fund COVID Grantmaking Survey was conducted among 13 DAF sponsors using self-reported data at the end of 2020. Collectively, this group represents just less than 50% of total DAF charitable grant dollars annually and includes national charities and community foundation DAF sponsors.

The Jenkintown, Pa.-based NPT also released its 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the most comprehensive data on donor-advised funds (DAFs) in the U.S., which showed a continued decade of growth across the board, exceeding $25 billion in grants for the first time.

The report reflects heightened philanthropic engagement, financial market fluctuations, increased interest in illiquid asset contributions and longer-term impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, according to Heisman. “Grants from DAFs to qualified charities have grown twice as fast as contributions to DAFs and have increased more than 90 percent over the last four years.”

NPT’s 14th annual Donor-Advised Fund Report, published annually since 2006, identified growth in all key metrics for the 10th consecutive year. The data reported in this edition captures the 2019 fiscal year, which can begin as early as July 1, 2018 and ends as late as Dec. 31, 2019. It does not include the philanthropic response to the events of 2020 and beyond.

The value of grants from DAF accounts to qualified charities totaled $27.37 billion in 2019, a 15.4% increase from $23.72 billion in 2018. This is the first year grants from DAFs exceeded $25 billion and the second year grants exceeded $20 billion. Since 2010, the value of grants to qualified charities from DAFs has increased almost 200%.

Contributions to DAF accounts totaled $38.81 billion, a 7.5% increase from $36.10 billion in 2018.

Charitable assets in all DAF accounts totaled $141.95 billion, a 16.2% increase from $122.18 billion in 2018. 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 873,228, a 19.4% increase compared to 731,607 in 2018. In the past 10 years, the number of DAF accounts grew almost 300%. The ease of management and flexibility of DAFs as well as the emergence of workplace giving accounts and lower contribution minimums contributed to this increase.

The value of DAF accounts averaged $162,556, a 2.7% decrease compared to $167,005 in 2018. As DAFs continue to grow in popularity, and the number of accounts increase, the average account value decreases.

Grant payout rate to qualified charities increased to 22.4% compared to 21.2% in 2018. The DAF grant payout rate has exceeded 20% for every year on record, demonstrating that DAF donors are a consistent, sustainable resource for charitable support.

The DAF Report primarily uses data from IRS Form 990 filings to provide the most up-to-date and reliable analysis of the DAF market. The 2020 report examined 993 charitable organizations that sponsor DAFs, including national charities, community foundations and other sponsoring charities.