This edition of the Donor-Advised Fund Report examined a total of 979 charities registered under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code that sponsor and/or manage donor-advised funds. These include the following organizations:

  • National Charities: organizations that are independent or are commercially-affiliated and national in reach; not focused on a particular region; do not have a specific religious and/or focus area. Examples include National Philanthropic Trust, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund and Renaissance Charitable Foundation.
  • Community Foundations: organizations that have a specific geographic or regional focus. Examples include Cleveland Foundation, Delaware Community Foundation and Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
  • Single-Issue Charities: organizations that support a specific religious faith; focus on a particular issue area or cause; or fund a specific institution. Examples include Jewish Federation of Rhode Island, San Diego Human Dignity Foundation and Stanford University. NOTE that for this report, four entities previously coded as “single-issue” charities were recoded to “national”: JustGive, Network for Good, Razoo, and Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors. The change affects all years.

Primary Data Source

The primary source for each charitable sponsor’s assets, contributions, grants and total number of donor-advised funds is their IRS Form 990. The Form 990 is the annual information return that charities file with the Internal Revenue Service. For those organizations that filed returns for FY2009 and forward, this information is found in Schedule D.

For organizations that filed returns since FY2008, this may include information found on Schedule D.

NPT obtained copies of Form 990 via GuideStar. In select cases, NPT obtained copies of Form 990 from the Foundation Center’s 990 Finder or the organization’s website.

Secondary Sources

For FY2007-2010, the following served as secondary sources for the above data. This includes data the organization publicly disclosed and/or reported:

  • The former donor-advised fund survey conducted by The Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • The organization’s annual report
  • The organization’s website
  • The organization’s audited financial statements

Standard Fiscal Data by Filing Year

Since organizations have varied fiscal years, which may end March 31, June 30 or December 31, data was recorded in the fiscal year in which the charity filed the 990 Form with the IRS and posted on GuideStar. For example, whether an organization’s fiscal year ends on March 31, 2015 or December 31, 2015, the data will be recorded as 2015. This is consistent with GuideStar’s reporting process in date stamping all Form 990s for the organizations’ respective fiscal years.

Continuous Data Updates

Starting in the 2014 edition of the Donor-Advised Fund Report, National Philanthropic Trust compiled a larger file covering more donor-advised fund sponsors. In this edition, the data are again compiled from that larger file.

For this 2016 edition, NPT reviewed 979 organizations that reported at least $1 in assets over the period 2012 through 2016. These include the largest programs in all major categories — 49 national programs, 594 Community Foundations (CFs) and 336 Single-Issue Charities. Of these in the historical file back to 2007, some have closed.

NPT maintains a time series of all key data points (charitable assets, grants, contributions and accounts) back to FY2007.

For this edition, NPT used the most recent data from IRS Forms 990 to supplement the file and to reflect the few mergers and closures that have occurred. Values shown for prior years include all donor-advised fund sponsors that could be identified as operating in the year reported.

Payout Calculation

Payout from donor-advised funds is calculated to resemble how the Foundation Center estimates the grant payout rate for private foundations.

The Foundation Center published a report about how payout rate is determined using rules established in the tax code. The tax code allows private foundations to include as “qualified distributions” certain expenses associated with grantmaking and other payments made for charitable purposes (e.g., conferences, technical assistance for grantees and other expenses). Those expenses are too complex to track accurately for 75,000+ private foundations. In its work, the Foundation Center uses a simpler approach, which this report now replicates.6

In the “Foundation Center method,” the current year’s grants are divided by investable assets held at the end of the prior year. When using this method, the payout rates for donor-advised funds rise from prior levels reported in the Donor-Advised Fund Reports before 2015.

For a comparison of the impact of using the Foundation Center method, see Figure 13 in the 2015 Donor-Advised Fund Report.

Coding of Community Type

We used two different types of codes to identify community foundations based on their location. First, we used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural-Urban scale (also called Beale Codes), from 1, for counties in metropolitan areas with 1 million or more in population through 9, for counties where there is no community larger than 2,500 and the county is not adjacent to a metropolitan area.

There are almost 300 community foundations in metropolitan areas with 1 million or more in population, so we used the Nielsen Direct Market Areas for television views to identify the top 50 metropolitan areas based on the size of their media markets. These markets cover urban agglomerations from New York City down to Louisville, Kentucky. Some of these metropolitan areas, such as the Washington DC market, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Seattle market, have multiple community foundations. The total in this group is 102.

There are 98 community foundations that are in less urbanized counties that are also connected to a larger metro area. These include entities such as the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County in California, the Bainbridge Community Foundation (an island that is also a vacation and commuter community for Seattle), and the Blue River Foundation, located about 50 miles from Indianapolis and considered “adjacent to a metro area” by the Beale coding.

After the major metro areas and the “ring counties,” we identified cities that are not in a top 50 media market plus those in Beale code 2 (counties in a metropolitan area of 250,000 to 1 million) and Beale Code 3 (counties in metro areas of fewer than 250,000 population). This covers Memphis (51st in the ranking of media markets) and communities such as Topeka, Kansas; Macon, Georgia; and OshKosh, Wisconsin. There are 132 in this group.

We coded community foundations that serve a state, state region, or multiple counties as a distinct group. For example, the Oregon Community Foundation, Foundation for Southeast Texas, and the Community Foundation for the Central Savannah River Area, which serving six counties in two states, are all here. N =175

Rural is based on Beale codes 5 through 9. Beale Code 5 is “Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, not adjacent to a metro area,” An example would be Flathead, Montanta or Humboldt County, California. Beale Code 9 is “Nonmetro - Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, not adjacent to a metro area.”

Note that Beale Code 4 is “Nonmetro - Urban population of 20,000 or more, adjacent to a metro area.” We mapped these counties to evaluate how close the nearest metro area was. If under 50 miles, the county was coded as “Outlying area/Suburban.” As such, the Community Foundation in Schuykill County in Pennsylvania, which is 40 miles from Reading, is in the category for “Suburban” and the community foundation in Emporia, Kansas, 90 miles from Topeka, is in “rural.”

  1. Renz, L. 2012. Understanding and Benchmarking Foundation Payout Rates