Micah Mann

QUICK SHOT: Donor Advised Funds – Tap into a $121 Billion Wellspring

Anyone who knows me at BDI will tell you: I can’t stop talking about Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs) lately. And I’m not going to stop anytime soon – in fact, I’m really excited to have this chance to share more about DAFs with you today!

Here’s what I think will get YOU excited: Donor-Advised Funds are one of the fastest-growing giving channels in fundraising. It just takes some strategic planning on your part to prepare your nonprofit to leverage this amazing channel.

Here’s everything you need to know to grow DAF giving to your nonprofit!

Brief Introduction to DAF

To use an analogy, Donor-Advised Funds are a well that donors have built for an immediate tax deduction, but from which they cannot draw water. They can only give the water in their well away to nonprofits. Meanwhile, the water (money) in their well (DAF account) is invested so that it continues to grow.

According to The National Philanthropic Trust’s 2019 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the U.S. is approaching a million of these existing wells (DAF accounts), and combined, DAFs hold $121.42 billion dollars that can only be given to charity[1].

And yes, that is billion!

As fundraisers, we’re not interested in encouraging donors to open a DAF (or build a well in the first place). Instead, we would encourage donors who do NOT already have a DAF to give their money directly to our cause. But for those who already have DAF accounts, we want them to give from their wells to our nonprofit.

Prepare and Ask

Enough talk about water and wells! Let’s get you ready to make your pitch to DAF donors.

Much of our primary strategy involves making DAF giving to your nonprofit as simple as possible, and secondarily, making it known to donors that you accept DAF giving.

Here are the 4 tips I recommend using to get your donors informed and interested in DAF giving:

1. Set up a highly visible website page focused on DAF giving

Here is an example from Coachella Valley Rescue Mission’s website.[2]

2. Regularly promote DAF giving on your platforms and in your publications:

  • Social Media
  • Newsletters
  • Thank you receipt inserts
  • Event communications
  • Direct mail remits:
    • Here’s an example of how that might look: Did you know that you could make a life-changing impact by sharing a gift from your Donor-Advised Fund? To learn more, contact NAME, TITLE, at PHONE NUMBER and/or EMAIL ADDRESS.

3. Make sure your Development Team and Major Gift Officers are comfortable discussing DAFs.

Consider that the minimum to open a DAF is often $5,000 [4]. If you’ve received a gift from a DAF donor that is <$5,000, there’s likely more money left in their “well”[3].

Assure your team that donors will want to hear from them about the need, and that DAFs are an easy way they can help meet the need. Avoid making the conversation about DAF strategies or stock tips.

4. Thank your DAF donors (See 3a above if you need motivation)!

Here’s my personal encouragement to you as you implement these strategies: One nonprofit client saw their year-over-year DAF giving increase 7x with only the time investment tips I listed above.

Feel free to reach out to us as you move forward. The team at BDI is available to come alongside you at every step. Of course, I’ll be excited to hear about the impact that increased Donor-Advised Fund giving has on your nonprofit!


[1] https://www.nptrust.org/reports/daf-report/ Keep in mind this report references 2018 DAF accounts and that the number of DAF accounts grew 55% from 2017 to 2018. Exponential DAF account growth is anticipated moving forward.

[2] There are popular widgets (such as DAFDirect) that many nonprofits use on their DAF pages; our recommendation is to not use these widgets as they are limiting for donors. These often list only 3 DAF options that simply direct donors to their DAF log-in page. On our attached template is a list of 14 top national DAF accounts, each with hyperlink to their respective log-in pages. Bonus points for doing research in your nonprofit’s database and adding any DAF accounts giving substantially to you already!

[3] Couldn’t resist the opportunity to use another well reference.

[4] Note that recently the largest DAF (Fidelity Charitable) announced they no longer require a minimum!

Check out last week’s Quick Shot: “3 Pro-Tips to Being Authentic on Social Media” >>

  • Micah Mann

    Micah Mann, Strategist/Senior Account Director

    For more than 10 years, Micah has dedicated himself to raising funds for nonprofits, including Rescue Missions, World Vision, Easterseals, Young America’s Foundation and Christian Union. As Founder/Executive Director of Blood for Missions, which supports Christian ministries through blood donations, he grew a team of 25 employees, serving a grassroots network of over 100 Christian schools and churches, including 5 of the largest churches in America.

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