What To Do About Donor Advised Funds

Suddenly, there is a lot of talk of Donor Advised Funds, or DAFs.  Although they’ve been around for ages, just in the past few years, organizations like Fidelity have been pushing them so hard that Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund was ranked the number charity in the US, bringing in $4.6 billion last year.

Now, to my mind, this raises all sorts of questions-like do you count as “top fundraising” organizations places like Fidelity and the Gates Foundation?—but we’ll leave that to some other time.

Another question that occurs is: should be Fidelity be considered “second only to the Gates Foundation” in grantmaking if what is being counted is the distribution of those donor advised funds?

It is, however, those DAF’s that we are talking about now—and specifically, how do you get funding from these, and what should you do when you get a gift/grant from a DAF?

If you are a large nonprofit and have a large development staff, there is (isn’t there always?) lots of things you can do.  But if you are like the vast majority of nonprofits, you don’t have the time or the staff to do many things.  And yet, given the growth of DAF’s, you really cannot ignore them.

So, what CAN you do?246-365-when-i-ruled-the-world-explored

  • When you get a gift from a DAF, if it has the donor’s name and contact information, thank the donor—profusely—for the gift “through your donor advised fund.” Remember:  They already got their charitable income tax deduction, so don’t encourage them to double-dip by sending a(n inappropriate) substantiation statement.
  • Often, however, you don’t know whose donor advised fund made the gift. No worries, thank the person signing the letter and ask if you can meet or talk about how you can continue to receive this gift and, perhaps, others from their DAF’s.
  • Look locally—Fidelity is big. But they will have local offices.  Check out who is in charge of philanthropy and see if you can meet that person.  Better still, find out which of your local community foundations have Donor Advised Funds and try to get to know the ED or the program officer.
  • Meanwhile, make sure you let people who may have DAF’s know that you happily and gratefully accept gifts from those funds.
    • Put an article in your newsletter about a DAF you did receive, and how much you would love to receive others
    • Tweet out that you do accept gifts from DAF’s
    • Post something on your facebook page
    • Put a P.S. in an appeal
  • Make sure that when you do accept a gift via a DAF it is not a gift to pay off a pledge. This is a no-no.  Federal law is very clear on this account.
  • Get a DAF direct widget on your website. Check out https://www.dafdirect.org

Gifts from Donor Advised Funds will not be the primary way you will get funds each year, but even one gift can make a difference in your bottom line.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits to increase fundraising capacity and take them from mired to inspired.  Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and for a 30-minute free consultation.  Also consider becoming Fluent in Fundraising.  Buy Compelling Conversations for Fundraisers fundraisers-cover.



About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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