2019 Donor-Advised Fund Report: Grants to Charities Exceed $23 Billion as Total Charitable Assets Surpass $121 Billion

The 2019 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the most comprehensive data on donor-advised funds (DAFs) in the U.S., reveals growth in key metrics for nine consecutive years. During the past five years, the number of DAFs in the U.S. has tripled and grant dollars from DAFs to charities has nearly doubled. The Report notes that grants from DAFs exceeded the $20 billion mark for the first time. Grants to qualified charities totaled $23.42 billion, an 18.9 percent increase over the prior year. Total DAF assets available for grantmaking increased to $121.42 billion, an 8.3 percent year-over-year increase. Contributions to DAF accounts, which will be used for charitable purposes, grew 20.1 percent to $37.12 billion. Contributions to donor-advised funds represent 12.7 percent of all individual giving in the U.S.*

National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), the largest national independent donor-advised fund sponsor in the U.S., publishes the Donor-Advised Fund Report annually.

“This is the first Donor-Advised Fund Report that fully captures donors’ response to tax reform and its implications for charitable giving in December 2017, before the new laws were enacted,” said Eileen Heisman, President and CEO of National Philanthropic Trust. “Contributions to donor-advised funds outpaced grants for the first time in four years, which may indicate donors choosing to ‘bunch’ their giving – essentially pre-funding several years of charitable giving to make their philanthropy more tax effective. We can’t yet predict a definitive trendline, but it is clear DAFs are a philanthropic solution that many donors chose in response to the new tax laws. Donors created more individual DAF accounts than ever before and our report found record highs in every key metric.”

Key Report Findings

The Report identified growth in key metrics for the ninth consecutive year.

  • Grants from DAF accounts to qualified charities totaled $23.42 billion in 2018, an 18.9 percent increase compared to $19.70 billion in 2017. This represents the first time grants from DAFs exceeded $20 billion.
  • Contributions to DAFs totaled $37.12 billion, a 20.1 percent increase compared to $30.90 billion in 2017.
  • Charitable assets in all DAF accounts totaled $121.42 billion, an 8.3 percent increase compared to $112.10 billion in 2017. DAF assets surpassed the $100 billion mark for the second time and experienced continued growth momentum since 2010.
  • DAF accounts in the U.S. totaled 728,563, a 55.2 percent increase compared to 469,331 in 2017. DAFs remain the fastest growing giving vehicle in the U.S.
  • Grant payout rate to qualified charities decreased to 20.9 percent compared to 22.8 percent in 2017. Donor-advised funds continue to have a payout rate nearly four times higher than that of private foundations. The grant payout rate has exceeded 20 percent for every year on record.
  • Size of DAF accounts averaged $166,653, a 30.2 percent decrease compared to $238,857 in 2017. Two years of historic growth in number of DAF accounts resulted in this decrease.

“DAFs are evolving into the next generation giving vehicle-of-choice because they are flexible, easy to manage, convenient, and responsive,” said Heisman. “DAF donors are highly committed, engaged philanthropists. They’re recommending more grant dollars than ever, choosing impact investments for their DAF’s charitable assets at an increasing rate, and donating complex assets, like business interests and real estate, to fund their philanthropic giving. It is inspiring when donors are creative while increasing their charitable impact.”

*Individual giving in the U.S. is based on Giving USA 2019 data.

The complete 2019 DAF Report is available with no charge or login requirement at NPTrust.org/daf-report and upon request. Data attribution: National Philanthropic Trust, NPTrust.org.