June 14, 2023

What Nonprofits Are Saying About Donor-Advised Funds

Author Andrea Rush, SVP of Philanthropic Solutions

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are a popular vehicle for charitable giving, with grants from DAFs increasing every year since 2009. In 2021 alone, grants from DAFs to charitable organizations reached a new high at $45.47 billion.

These grants were critical for nonprofits during the global crisis at a time when, as pointed out by Nonprofit Management & Leadership, these charitable organizations faced “increased demands for services alongside decreased revenues.”

Donors and advisors alike have long known the benefits of DAFs, from maximizing tax benefits to building a philanthropic strategy. But nonprofits (and those who lead them) see firsthand the powerful impact they can have on their organizations, especially during times of uncertainty.

The 2023 FreeWill Donor-Advised Fund Report found that 72% of nonprofit respondents “said that DAFs will be more important to their organizations in 2023 compared to previous years.” The report also concluded that “the majority of respondents view DAFs in a positive light.”

We’ve compiled a list of examples of how grants through donor-advised funds at National Philanthropic Trust have made a difference for nonprofit organizations over the past few years.

On the Record: Nonprofit Leaders’ Insights on DAFs

DAF grants allow for sustainable, engaged multi-year relationships.

  • “DAFs make our work possible. Something unique about DAFs is they often drive a multiyear relationship in ways other kinds of giving don’t, and we really value those relationships.” – Dan Futrell, CEO of the Pat Tillman Foundation.
  • “We would not have gotten where we are today without the support of donor-advised funds. Active, engaged and passionate donors help us move the needle on critical social, civic and social issues our communities are grappling with.” – Jane Golden, Founder and Executive Director of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
  • “It is thanks to our generous donors that we’ve been able to respond to the increased need for food assistance and resources. Philanthropic funds – like DAFs – have been the foundation of our COVID-19 response.” – Elise Krikau, Senior Vice President of Development for the Maryland Food Bank.

Nonprofits are seeing an increase in DAF grants that are forming a solid base of giving for their annual budgets.

  • “Donor-advised funds are really important to our organization. We’ve received over 400 donor-advised funds [grants] in the last four years.” – Michele Werner, Interim Chief Philanthropy Officer for Nurse-Family Partnership.
  • “We’ve seen, year-over-year, the significant growth of donor-advised funds… [these gifts] allow the organization to apply where funds are most needed.” – Melissa Sciacca, Executive Director of Sheldrick Wildlife Trust USA.

The reliability of DAF grants allow nonprofits the flexibility to apply funds where they are most needed—and to experiment for more impactful initiatives.

  • “Donor-advised funds, and other forms of strategic or planned giving, really play an integral role… They provide us with stable, long-term endowment funding for the future, as well as support immediate, pressing needs.” – Adele Hixon-Day, Head of Advancement for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • “What’s amazing about DAFs, and the sustained support we get from donors, is it gives us the ability to be flexible, yet timely. We can apply [DAF grants] where and when we need them the most.” – Luke Argleben, Director of Development for Hispanic Access Foundation.
  • “We can make a bigger difference at a faster pace because unrestricted grants from DAFs allow us to immediately address the greatest priority to help children in crisis battling cancer.” – Sue Harpole, Senior Fellow at ALSAC (American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities) the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
  • “During COVID, so many folks with DAFs came to us and gave heavily. Most DAF grants were unrestricted which means we were able to put the money where it was needed most.” – Chip Paillex, Founder and CEO of America’s Grow-a-Row.
  • “Like so many nonprofits, we have to test and explore to find what works, and that’s where the DAF-driven gifts come in; these grants allow us the opportunity to experiment and meet needs as they arise.” – Abri Hochstetler, Vice President of Development and Communication at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Indianapolis.

Grants from donor-advised funds are making a difference for thousands of nonprofits across the country and around the world. For more stories about nonprofits and donor-advised funds, visit our Grants in Action page.