Survey results


Close to two-thirds of survey respondents reported the existence of a policy to address donor advised funds (DAFs) that remain "dormant" by not awarding a grant within a pre-defined and agreed upon period of time, ensuring that these increasingly popular philanthropic vehicles remain active in supporting the organizations and causes that align with the donor's original intent.

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 and carry more DAF assets 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 10% 28% 62%
$25-$50M 12% 20% 69%
$50-$100M 25% 19% 56%
$100-$250M 27% 15% 59%
$250-$500M 32% 16% 52%
$500M+ 36% 12% 52%
All 22% 19% 59%

Total donor advised fund assets, gifts, and grants

Total reported DAF assets grew by five percent over the reported FY18 total, even as fewer community foundations participated in the FY19 survey, reflecting the high rate of growth for assets across the field as noted in the Assets, Gifts, and Grants section of this report.

Assets $32,242,725,086
Gifts $5,359,935,261
Grants $4,926,165,072

Donor advised fund flow rate

High median DAF flow rates in every asset cohort suggest a high rate of overall grantmaking that keeps pace with fundraising.

More than one-third of FY19 Columbus 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; close to half (48 percent) of all survey respondents reported double-digit distribution rates from their DAFs in FY19. 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 4% 4%
$25M - $50M 6% 4%
$50M - $100M 11% 6%
$100M - $250M 9% 6%
$250M - $500M 12% 8%
>$500M 14% 7%

Inactive donor advised funds policy

More than half of all Columbus Survey respondents reported the existence of a policy in place to address the "dormancy" of DAFs, typically defined by the passage of a predefined period of time after which no grants were awarded from the fund.

No response 24%
No policy 16%
Policy exists 60%

How many years until a DAF is considered inactive?

Nearly all respondents said that they consider a DAF to be inactive if no grant is made from the fund within five years, with three-quarters considering a DAF to be inactive if it hasn't awarded a grant within 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, citing the potential for the donor to establish 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

More than two-thirds of those respondents who share what steps they take to address "inactive" DAFs said that they, at minimum, notify the DAF holder to activate the fund by recommending a grant, but fewer community foundations take additional action beyond that initial step. When survey respondents were offered the opportunity to share other actions they take to address an inactive DAF, virtually all stated that they execute some combination of the steps listed per the community foundation's fund agreement. Several survey respondents pointed out that they have yet to execute any of these steps, citing a lack of funds that remained inactive beyond the defined time horizon.