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COVID Pushed Donor-Advised Funds Higher

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in The Non-Profit Times.  It is reprinted with permission.  To subscribe to the free newsletter of The Non-Profit Times, click here.

Donor-advised funds (DAF) continue to report record increases in donations and distributions in 2020 in response to the coronavirus and other current events.

National Philanthropic Trust (NPT), the nation’s largest independent DAF sponsor, reported a record $2.11 billion in donor-recommended grants for the fiscal year ending June 30. The aggregate grant dollars represent a 54-percent increase from $1.39 billion in the previous fiscal year.

NPT donors recommended 73,898 grants to 25,845 charities in all 50 states and around the world, representing an increase of 41 percent and 26 percent, respectively, compared to Fiscal Year 2019.

In March, April, May, and June, the volume of NPT grants increased an average of 69 percent and the dollar value increased an average of 159 percent compared to the same time period in 2019.

“NPT donors responded with generosity during this unprecedented time, both to emerging and established charities around the world,” said Eileen Heisman, CEO of National Philanthropic Trust. “Donors identified urgent needs that the coronavirus pandemic created and responded swiftly to support charities in most every philanthropic sector, including public society benefit, human services, international affairs and education.”

In each of the past two years, contributions have outpaced expenses by more than $1 billion at NPT. For the year ending June 30, 2018, the most recent tax form available, NPT reported $2.9 billion in revenue, including $2.7 billion in contributions and grants. Net assets were reported to be $6 billion, up from $4.1 billion in 2017 and $2.7 billion in 2016.

Schwab Charitable Fund, a San Francisco-based commercial DAF sponsor, also granted a record amount for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Some $3.3 billion was granted to more than 100,000 charities through almost 700,000 grants. That’s a 33-percent increase in dollars granted and a 24-percent spike in grants, compared to 2019.

Schwab Charitable saw the fastest pace of growth in the second half of the fiscal year (January-June) since its first full fiscal year.  Donors recommended more than $1.7 billion in 330,000 grants — a 46-percent increase in dollars granted a 44-percent rise in grants versus 2019.

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, the most recent tax form available, Schwab reported revenue of $3.465 billion and expenses of $1.916 billion. Net assets were $12.895 billion, up from $10.616 billion in 2017 and $8 billion in 2016.

Specifically, between mid-February and the end of June, donors earmarked more than $145 million for charities providing relief for communities impacted by COVID-19. Charities recommended by the Center for Disaster Philanthropy (CDP) saw a 250-percent burst in dollars granted year over year.

Almost two-thirds of contributions (64 percent) to Schwab Charitable were non-cash assets, including publicly traded securities, restricted stock, and privately held business interests. Three-quarters of Schwab DAF account assets are associated with a professional investment advisor.

The most widely supported sectors were religion, human services, education, and health. The most widely supported charities in fiscal year 2020 included Feeding America, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Doctors Without Borders, The Salvation Army, and Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru).

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