Jack Salmon in Candid: DAFs are a Beacon of Philanthropy

In an op-ed published September 5, 2023 by Candid, Philanthropy Roundtable Director of Policy Research Jack Salmon writes that, although overall charitable giving declined last year, Giving USA’s Annual Report illustrates how donor-advised funds (DAFs) are a valuable and versatile giving tool that continue to make a lasting difference in communities nationwide. 

Below are excerpts from the article entitled “DAFs are a Beacon of Philanthropy”:   

“Giving USA 2023: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2022 offers a panoramic view of DAFs’ overall growth and highlights their significance in supporting a wide variety of charitable causes and organizations.  Total grants to charities from DAFs surged by an impressive 28 percent in 2021, reaching a staggering $45.74 billion, which is equivalent to nearly 9 percent of total giving that year. That upward trajectory in charitable giving from DAFs continued into 2022. Grants from the four leading national DAF sponsors—Fidelity Charitable, Schwab Charitable, Vanguard Charitable, and National Philanthropic Trust—surged from about $22 billion to almost $24 billion last year. That is a noteworthy 7 percent increase over 2022 and showcases the steady growth of DAFs’ impact in the philanthropic landscape. 

Beyond the encouraging stats on total giving, DAFs also play a poignant role in memorializing individuals and sustaining their legacies. The report highlights heartwarming examples like the Ken and Martha Schwartz Fund, administered by the Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County, which awarded grants totaling $300,000 to support new buildings in the Cultural Arts District of San Luis Obispo. 


In 2020, facing historic needs with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, donors were able to respond quickly and generously with DAF gifts. It was precisely the use of DAFs as America’s rainy-day fund that allowed Americans to meet this unprecedented global health crisis—underscoring their responsiveness and adaptability in challenging times. 


DAFs are not idle reservoirs of wealth. A vast majority of these funds operate under robust policies, diligently ensuring that their charitable missions remain at the forefront. Earlier studies have consistently shown that the overwhelming majority of DAF accounts are governed by measures that rigorously regulate payout activity, underscoring the genuine commitment of DAFs to driving positive impact.” 

To read the complete article, please visit Candid. 

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