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New Reports Highlight Growth of Donor-Advised Funds and Giving Circles

Author: Stephen Sherman

Dec05

Even taking into account the Great Recession, we’ve generally seen the numbers, assets, and giving for private and community foundations in the United States continue to rise over the past decade. Over the long term, that growth has been steady and alludes to the staying power of foundations in spite of changing social, economic and political circumstances. However, while foundations have the capacity to make transformative grants in their respective communities, collectively they account for a relatively small share of charitable giving when compared with contributions from individual donors.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) and giving circles lie somewhere in between foundations and individuals on the giving spectrum and are two of the fastest growing philanthropic vehicles. Two recent studies offer insight into the growth of these giving instruments in the United States.

The 2017 Donor-Advised Fund Report, published by the National Philanthropic Trust, surveys the growth of DAFs in the United States from 2010-2016 and provides an analysis of funds by sponsor type. Data was gathered from over 1,000 organizations that sponsor DAFs, including national charities, community foundations and single-issue charities. In 2016, there were approximately 285,000 individual donor-advised funds across the country – more than three times the number of private foundations. Nearly 44,000 DAFs are housed in organizations within SECF’s 11-state footprint, representing around 15 percent of all donor-advised funds in the country.

The 2017 report offered a glimpse at the growth and concentration of DAFs by state. Massachusetts (82,643), California (38,590) and Pennsylvania (20,819) were home to more than half of all DAFs in the country in 2016 thanks to prominent charities such as Fidelity and Vanguard. Georgia was one of the fastest-growing states for DAFs and ranked fourth nationally with 19,736 funds, slightly ahead of New York (18,481). Georgia’s leading position can be largely attributed to the National Christian Foundation, located in Alpharetta, which houses more than 16,000 donor-advised funds. Within the Southeast region, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia also host significant numbers of DAFs.

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