Advice for the Savvy Donor Advised Fund Shopper

calculator screen showing the word "funds"
“funds” by CreditDebitPro is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dear Savvy Donor,

By now you’ve at least heard about Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), the charitable checking and savings accounts established by individuals, families, and businesses. In the U.S. alone, more than 1,000 charitable organizations offer DAFs. These “DAF Sponsors” range from small groups with fewer than 10 DAF customers to multi-billion dollar shops with more than 100,000 customers. The range from having localized expertise to specializing in international grantmaking or impact investing.

Your bank or financial advisor likely has a DAF to recommend to you. So does your local community foundation. But only taking their recommendation is like going to one local dealership and buying your car without asking any questions. No reading about competing models, price comparisons, consumer and expert ratings, or service options ahead of time. Sure, you might get a reliable vehicle from nice people, but can you be sure you got the right vehicle for your needs in the long run?

To help you be a savvier shopper of DAF options, I’ve created a list of potential questions to ask DAF sponsors (download 2-page PDF). If you already have a DAF established, you may be able to move it to another Sponsor that better fits your needs and interests.

Why trust this advice? I have more than 25 years of experience in and knowledge of DAF sponsors, foundations, and other charitable options. I have done consulting work for some DAF sponsors and their donor clients. But I’m not paid to sell or manage DAFs or manage their investments and I don’t have exclusive or favored relationships with any DAF sponsors. I’m simply trying to provide conflict-free advice to generous donors. (FYI, I donated an earlier version of the list to the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s Guide to Family Philanthropy and Donor-Advised Funds).

Let me know if you find the list helpful, if you have questions about it, or have suggestions for improving it by emailing me at tony [at] tonymacklin.com.

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