November 19, 2019

NPT’s Donor-Advised Fund Report Shows Tremendous Growth in DAF Sector

Author Eileen R. Heisman, President & CEO

Last week, National Philanthropic Trust published our 13th annual Donor-Advised Fund Report. We are proud to provide this exclusive analysis and to publish this report as a service to our peers, donors and those interested in the charitable impact that donor-advised funds have in the U.S.

This year’s findings demonstrate tremendous growth in the DAF sector. Most notably:

Grantmaking from donor-advised funds to qualified charities has nearly doubled in the past five years. In 2018, philanthropists recommended grants from their DAFs totaling $23.42 billion to charities that are important to them.

The same rapid growth also applies to contributions to donor-advised funds, which totaled $37.12 billion in 2018.

The impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is now fully captured in the data. It shows that contributions outpaced grants for the first time in four years and that more individual donor-advised fund accounts were created than ever before. Not enough time has passed to demonstrate a trendline, but it is clear that donors found DAFs to be a solution to the challenges or changes presented by the new tax laws.

For the second year in a row, there was growth above 50 percent in the number of new donor-advised fund accounts. This growth has been driven in large part by a few new DAF sponsors that are using donor-advised funds in flexible ways, such as to facilitate employee giving.

What I’ve observed in my long career in charitable giving is what every fundraiser and many philanthropists know: Donor-advised funds can be used in so many ways, by different generations, to satisfy giving on different time horizons. Donors today want to stay close to their giving and they want it to be easy. DAFs help achieve both, which is why they are such a popular giving tool. Read the report to learn more about donor-advised funds and recent trends in our sector.


Eileen R. Heisman, ACFRE, is the President and CEO of NPT. She is a nationally recognized expert on charitable and planned giving. Ms. Heisman has been named six times by NonProfit Times as one of their Power and Influence Top 50, most recently in 2019.

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