There are an estimated 1.1 million registered public charities in the United States.9 The 1,016 charities that sponsor donor-advised funds tracked in this report comprise less than 1/10th of one percent of those organizations. There are more than 269,000 individual donor-advised funds among the charitable sponsors we tracked. In this report, data from three types of donor-advised fund charitable sponsors are reported: National Charities, Community Foundations and Single-Issue Charities.

The first donor-advised funds were opened in the mid-1930s and housed at Community Foundations and Jewish Federations. National donor-advised fund programs have existed for about twenty years.

National Charities’ donor-advised funds have grown significantly in number of individual donor-advised funds and charitable assets. Community Foundations have also increased in these metrics at a slightly slower rate. Though Single-Issue Charities have maintained roughly the same number of donor-advised fund accounts over time, their charitable assets have increased significantly.

National Charities’ donor-advised fund accounts outnumber the other two types of charitable sponsors combined. They distribute more grant dollars and have higher aggregate charitable asset values. The average account size at Community Foundations is higher than the other two types of charitable sponsors. Single-Issue Charity sponsors have the highest grant payout rate of the charitable sponsors analyzed in this study.

National Charities

This report analyzes 2015 data for donor-advised fund grantmaking, contributions and charitable assets at 48 National Charities. These national charitable sponsors had a combined 153,871 donor-advised fund accounts with total charitable assets of $38.83 billion in 2015.

Accounts

The number of individual donor-advised funds at National Charities grew to 153,871 in 2015, an 18.6 percent increase. This follows a compound annual growth rate of 9.0 percent from 2010 to 2014. Figure 7 shows the number of donor-advised fund accounts by charitable sponsor.

Grants

The total value of grants from donor-advised funds at National Charities to other qualified charities totaled $7.05 billion in 2015, an increase of 29.8 percent. We anticipated an increase in grantmaking in 2015 in our projections issued in last year’s report. Figure 8 shows the value of grants paid by type of charitable sponsor.

Contributions

Total contributions to donor-advised funds at National Charities reached $12.77 billion in 2015. This was an increase of 21.7 percent over the prior year. This year’s rate of growth is somewhat lower than the average compound annual growth rate of 25.5 percent for contributions to National Charities from 2010 through 2014. The 2010–2014 years include a wide range of rates of change, from a major 49.9 percent increase in 2010 to a more modest 16.6 percent in 2011. Figure 9 shows contributions to donor-advised fund accounts by type of charitable sponsor.

Charitable Assets

From 2014 to 2015, total charitable assets in donor-advised funds at National Charities increased by 16.4 percent, rising from a revised 2014 estimate of $33.35 billion to $38.83 billion for 2015. The compound annual growth rate for 2010 through 2014 is 27.8 percent, which includes individual annual rates of growth between 13 percent and 28 percent. Figure 10 shows donor-advised fund assets by type of charitable sponsor.

Grant Payout

The total payout rate from donor-advised funds at National Charities was 21.1 percent in 2015, a very small decrease from a payout rate of 21.3 percent during the prior year. Figure 11 shows payout rates by type of charitable sponsor.

Average Donor-Advised Fund Size

The average size of an individual donor-advised fund at a National Charity in 2015 is estimated at $252,325. This represents a decline of 1.8 percent compared with the revised 2014 average of $256,986. Figure 12 shows the average donor-advised fund size by type of charitable sponsor.

Community Foundations

For 2015, this report analyzes data for donor-advised funds at 608 Community Foundations. Donor advised fund programs at these Community Foundations have 68,168 individual donor-advised funds with charitable assets totaling $28.70 billion.

Accounts

The number of donor-advised funds at Community Foundations increased to 68,168 in 2015, an increase of 3.1 percent when compared with 2014. This follows growth of 4.5 percent and 4.3 percent in 2014 and 2013, respectively. See Figure 7.

Grants

Grants from donor-advised funds at Community Foundations totaled $4.14 billion in 2015, up from $4.02 billion granted in 2014. The 2015 grant total reflects a 3.0 percent increase in grantmaking compared with 2014. See Figure 8.

Contributions

Total contributions to donor-advised funds at Community Foundations are estimated to be $5.53 billion in 2015. The estimated change in contributions from 2014 to 2015 is a drop of 5.8 percent. The increase from 2013 to 2014 was 18.4 percent. Changes in contributions to donor-advised funds in Community Foundations show great variability. A contributing factor to the highly fluctuating rate of change is very large bequests or gifts that are not replicable on an annual basis. In 2014, for example, one community foundation received contributions totaling nearly $1.9 billion. That same foundation received just over $1 billion in 2015. See Figure 9.

Charitable Assets

From 2014 to 2015, total charitable assets in donor-advised funds at Community Foundations increased by 6.9 percent, from $26.85 billion to $28.70 billion. See Figure 10.

Grant Payout

The total payout from donor-advised funds at Community Foundations was 15.4 percent in 2015, a decrease from 17.4 percent in 2014. See Figure 11.

Average Account Size

The average size of a donor-advised fund at Community Foundations rose in 2015 to $421,013. This represents an increase of 3.7 percent compared with the 2014 average of $405,998. See Figure 12.

Single-Issue Charities

For 2015, we analyzed data for 360 Single-Issue Charity sponsors. This type of charitable sponsor held 47,141 donor-advised funds with charitable assets totaling $11.11 billion.

Accounts

The number of individual donor-advised funds at Single-Issue Charities was 47,141. This number is an increase of 1.4 percent compared with 2014, when there were 46,481 donor-advised funds. See Figure 7.

Grants

Grants from donor-advised funds at Single-Issue Charities totaled $3.34 billion in 2015, up from $2.97 billion granted in 2014. This is an increase of 12.1 percent. See Figure 8.

Contributions

Total contributions to donor-advised funds at Single-Issue Charities rose from $3.61 billion in 2014 to $3.97 billion in 2015. The change in contributions from 2014 to 2015 represents a 9.8 percent increase. See Figure 9.

Charitable Assets

Total charitable assets in donor-advised funds at Single-Issue Charities rose to $11.11 billion, an increase of 10.3 percent, from a revised amount of $10.08 billion in 2014. See Figure 10.

Grant Payout

The total payout from donor-advised funds at Single-Issue Charities was 33.1 percent in 2015, a decline compared with the payout rate of 34.1 percent in 2014. See Figure 11.

Average Account Size

The average size of a donor-advised fund at Single-Issue Charities rose in 2015 to $235,727 . This represents an increase of 8.8 percent compared with the 2014 average of $216,760. See Figure 12.

Figures

Figure 7: Number of Donor-Advised Fund Accounts by Charitable Sponsor (Thousands)
chart+
Figure 8:Total Value of Grants from Donor- Advised Funds by Sponsor Type (Billions)
chart+
Figure 9:Total Contributions by Sponsor Type (Billions)
chart+
Figure 10:Total Value of Charitable Assets in Donor-Advised Funds by Charitable Sponsor Type
chart+
Figure 11:Total Payout Rate* from Donor-Advised Funds by Charitable Sponsor Type
chart+
Figure 12:Average Account Size by Type of Sponsor Organization (total assets divided by total number of accounts)
chart+
  1. National Center for Charitable Statistics, “Quick Facts About Nonprofits” Urban Institute, accessed October 3, 2016.