Donors Raced To DAFs After Tax Change

The number of donor-advised funds (DAF) accounts exploded in 2018, the first year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), as contributions to DAFs grew by 20 percent, according to an annual report by the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT).

The Donor-Advised Fund Report examined 54 national charities, 603 community foundations and 332 single-issue charities.

Contributions to DAFs during 2018 totaled $37.12 billion, an increase of 20.1 percent compared to the $30.9 billion reported in 2017. That’s equivalent to about 12.7 percent of the $292 billion in individual giving during 2018, or more than 1 out of every 8 dollars given by individuals. Contributions to DAFs as a share of individual giving continued to grow over the past decade, from 4.4 percent in 2010.

The boom in DAF accounts occurred within national charities, where DAF accounts soared by 75 percent, from 339,008 in 2017 to 593,356 in 2018. Community foundations (3.9 percent) and single-issue charities (5.9 percent) also saw growth but nothing close to the boom among national charities.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), passed in December 2017, spurred charitable giving at the end of that year before the law went into effect at the start of 2018. Contributions to DAFs rose by a combined $5 billion in 2017, or 23 percent, and more than $6.2 billion, or 20 percent, in 2018, outpacing the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) during the past five years, with a record number of DAFs accounts created. “Not enough time has passed to demonstrate a trend line, but it is clear that many donors found that donor-advised funds offered a solution to the challenges or changes presented by the new tax laws,” according to the 13th annual report from the Jenkintown, Pa.-based organization.

Grants from DAFs to qualified charities totaled an estimated $23.42 billion, an increase of almost 19 percent compared to the $19.7 billion in 2017. The CAGR from 2014 through 2018 was 17.4 percent.

Charitable assets in DAFs grew from $112.1 billion in 2017 to $121.42 billion in 2018, an increase of 8.3 percent, and a CAGR of 14.7 percent since 2014.

The average size of a DAF account fell by 30 percent, from $238,857 in 2017 to $166,653 in 2018. The total number of DAF accounts continued to explored, last year by 55 percent, from 469,331 to 728,563 in 2018.

“The emergence of workplace giving donor-advised fund accounts and sponsoring organizations that have no or low contribution minimums will continue to drive down the average donor-advised fund size,” according to the report.

Grant payout, following the Foundation Center model for calculating payout for independent foundations, dipped by 1.9 percent, from 22.8 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent last year.