Survey results


Significant increases in donor-advised fund (DAF) fundraising and grantmaking reflect the field's ability to "activate" this portion of their donor base in a time of crisis. As many community foundations work to act as partners to their DAF holders, the trust that results from that partnership manifests in an increase of philanthropic activity when it is needed most.

Endowed and non-endowed assets

Smaller, emerging, and growing community foundations that may be focused on asset growth typically have a relatively high proportion of endowed assets. Larger community foundations, with an increased focus on diversifying their portfolios and providing flexible options for donors to engage in philanthropy, are more likely to have a higher proportion of pass-through funds.

Product mix

Larger community foundations tend to manage more DAFs than their smaller counterparts, as they seek to grow their donor bases and provide services to those donors to facilitate their participation in locally-focused philanthropy.

All respondents

  • Donor-advised funds
  • Discretionary funds
  • All other funds
Size of Foundation Donor-advised funds Discretionary funds All other funds
$0-$25M 14% 22% 64%
$25-$50M 10% 24% 65%
$50-$100M 21% 18% 61%
$100-$250M 26% 11% 63%
$250-$500M 28% 13% 58%
$500M+ 39% 9% 52%
All 24% 16% 60%

Total donor-advised fund assets, gifts, and grants

Total reported DAF assets grew by seven percent over 2019's overall total, while fundraising and grantmaking each increased by over 35 percent.

Assets $34,611,837,504
Gifts $7,349,964,314
Grants $6,683,344,125

Donor-advised fund flow rate

High median DAF flow rates in every asset cohort reflect high rates of grantmaking that keep pace with fundraising.

More than one-third of 2020 Annual Survey respondents reported DAF flow rates of over 100%, granting more from their DAFs than those funds brought in as gifts.

The "flow rate" of DAFs compares a given year's grantmaking total with its gift total, dividing grants by gifts. This metric may help capture the activity of donors who contribute to their DAF and grant from it that same year.

Distribution rates

DAFs at community foundations tend to be highly active grantmaking vehicles; more than half of all respondents reported distribution rates from DAFs in excess of 10 percent. With typically higher proportions of pass-through funds available for granting, larger community foundations tend to report higher distribution rates overall.

Size of Foundation Donor-Advised Funds Whole Foundation
<$25M 3% 4%
$25M - $50M 6% 3%
$50M - $100M 9% 5%
$100M - $250M 10% 7%
$250M - $500M 12% 8%
>$500M 14% 9%

Inactive donor-advised funds policy

Nearly three quarters of all annual survey respondents have a policy in place to activate "dormant" DAFs, defined by the passage of a predefined time horizon without the recommendation of a grant.

No response 0%
No policy 0%
Policy exists 0%

How many years until a DAF is considered inactive?

Nearly all said they considered a DAF to be dormant if no grant is recommended within five years, with three-quarters considering a DAF inactive after three years. Although few in number, there were instances of the community foundation considering a DAF to be dormant after 10 or more years of inactivity, in cases where a donor establishes the fund with the intention of building its balance to activate the fund toward more impactful grantmaking in the future.

Steps taken to address inactive donor advised funds

Over three-quarters of respondents said that they will first attempt an appeal to a DAF holder to activate the fund after a predefined period of time after which the fund is considered dormant. Follow-up step are often included in the donor's original fund agreement; many said that those steps included one or both of distributing DAF dollars in alignment with the donor's original intent and transferring the funds into the community foundation's unrestricted funds.