Appreciation in Donor-Advised Funds: An Analysis of Major Sponsors

Key Points

  • Donor-advised funds (DAFs)—individual tax-advantaged accounts through which individuals set aside funds for current and future charitable use—have become the fastest-growing vehicle for charitable giving in recent years.
  • From 2015 to 2019, investments for assets managed by the four largest DAF sponsors—Fidelity Charitable, Vanguard Charitable, Schwab Charitable, and the National Philanthropic Trust—led to returns that made available almost $2.66 billion reserved for future charitable donations. Because those four organizations represent slightly less than half (46 percent) of all DAF accounts, net returns for all DAFs plausibly made available more than $5 billion reserved for future charitable donations.
  • An analysis of national charitable-giving data indicates no evidence that the appreciated assets are not being expeditiously disbursed. Rather, even as DAF contributions have increased, so, too, have grants to all other major categories of charitable organizations, including human services, health, education, and religion.