What Exactly is a Donor Advised Fund?

A donor advised fund (DAF) is a type of charitable giving program that allows donors to make a charitable contribution, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend grants from the fund to their favorite charities over time. In other words, it’s a way for donors to give to charity in a flexible and tax-efficient manner.


The concept of a donor advised fund originated in the United States in the 1930s as a way for charitable organizations to pool donors’ contributions and invest the funds, with the goal of maximizing the impact of the donations. Today, DAFs are offered by a variety of organizations, including community foundations, financial institutions, and charitable organizations.


One of the key benefits of a donor advised fund is that it allows donors to take an immediate tax deduction for their contribution, even if they don’t recommend a grant to a charity right away. This can be especially beneficial for donors who want to support their favorite charities, but don’t necessarily have the funds available at the time of their donation.

Another benefit of a DAF is that it provides donors with a simple and efficient way to manage their charitable giving. Rather than having to research and evaluate individual charities, donors can make a single contribution to their DAF and then recommend grants to their favorite charities over time. This not only saves time and effort, but also allows donors to have a greater impact by pooling their resources with other donors in the fund.

In addition, a DAF can offer donors the opportunity to invest their charitable dollars and potentially grow the value of their fund over time. Many DAFs offer a variety of investment options, allowing donors to choose the level of risk and return that best aligns with their financial goals and charitable objectives. This can provide donors with an additional source of income to support their charitable giving over the long term.


It’s important to note that, while a DAF can provide many benefits to donors, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider. For example, some critics argue that DAFs can make it easier for donors to avoid fulfilling their charitable commitments, since they can take an immediate tax deduction for their contribution without actually recommending any grants to charities. In addition, DAFs are not subject to the same strict regulations as other charitable organizations, which can create potential opportunities for abuse.


Despite these concerns, many donors continue to use DAFs as a convenient and tax-efficient way to support their favorite charities. If you’re considering making a charitable contribution, a DAF may be worth considering as a way to maximize the impact of your donation. However, it’s always important to do your own research and carefully evaluate any charitable giving program before making a contribution.