Education, Religion Get Largest Share of Donor-Advised Fund Dollars

Education, Religion Get Largest Share of Donor-Advised Fund Dollars

A new report from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy suggests that education, religious, and public-society benefit nonprofits attract the largest share of donor-advised fund grant dollars.

Supported by the Giving USA Foundation and Fidelity Charitable Trustees' Initiative, the report, The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know, analyzed data from a small number of organizations representing roughly half of all grant dollars distributed by donor-advised funds between 2012 and 2015. The analysis found that giving to education comprised 28 percent of total grant dollars awarded over that period, while giving in support of religion and public-society benefit comprised 14 percent each.

The findings contrast with giving trends identified by Giving USA, which found that giving to education, religion, and public-society benefit comprised 15 percent, 32 percent, and 7 percent, respectively, of total giving in the U.S. According to the study, the distribution patterns of donor-advised funds track more closely with the giving of high-net-worth donors, who tend to direct a larger share of their giving to education than to religion. Moreover, granting patterns among DAFs are relatively stable, with each issue area receiving a similar percentage of grant dollars from year to year.

The report further notes the robust growth in the number of DAF accounts, aggregate assets, and total contributions between 2008 and 2014. The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates that the number of DAFs increased steadily over that period but by no more than 11 percent in any single year, while total contributions jumped 48 percent on a year-over-year basis in 2012 and set a record of $22 billion in 2014. The total asset value of DAFs in 2014 reached $76 billion.

"The data clearly identify education and religion organizations as the types of nonprofits that are most likely to attract grant dollars from donor-advised funds," said Una Osili, associate dean for research and international programs at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. "We need more data to discover how those trends may unfold over a longer period of time, especially as donors and nonprofits continue to learn about and explore the possibilities of donor-advised funds."

"Where Do Donor-Advised Fund Grants Go?." Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Press Release 02/28/2018. "The Data on Donor-Advised Funds: New Insights You Need to Know." Giving USA Foundation and Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Report 02/28/2018.