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Donor-Advised Funds


An Efficient Charitable Giving Strategy

Charitable giving is an important part of our American culture. According to Giving USA, Americans donated $484.85 billion to U.S. Charities in 2021.1 In recently years, donor-advised funds (DAFs) have gained popularity as a vehicle for giving. In fact, total grants from DAFs to charitable organizations increased from $8.52B in 2012 to $45.74B in 2021.2 Following is an overview of DAFs and why this vehicle is becoming an increasingly popular choice for charitable giving.

What is a Donor-Advised Fund?

A donor-advised fund is a 501(c)(3) charitable fund that receives irrevocable charitable gifts from individuals and couples. The donor who makes a gift to the fund retains control over the timing of its distributions and the organizations to which donations are made.

  • For example, suppose that in 2023, John and Mary Jones donate $100,000 to a DAF at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation. The $100,000 can no longer be accessed by Mr. and Mrs. Jones for their personal use. However, the Joneses can dictate the timing of donations (2023, 2024, 2025, etc.) to their charities of choice. The amount of the gift and the underlying assets remaining in the fund can be managed by the Jones’s advisor. There is no deadline for the distribution of funds, and the Joneses are not locked into any specific charity; multiple charities can be chosen, if desired.

Why Use a DAF?

There are several reasons you may consider using a DAF for your charitable giving:

  • Simple to set up – It’s much easier to establish a DAF than a foundation, for example. The process includes setting up a new account, with similar paperwork as other financial accounts.
  • Simple recordkeeping – The entity you use for establishing the DAF will track contributions and distributions and provide simplified tax reporting.
  • Tax benefits – There are several ways to realize the tax benefits of a DAF:
    1. Itemized deductions – If you itemize, you can make large donations during high-income years and receive charitable deduction benefits during years you fall into higher tax brackets. For example, suppose Jane Smith plans to make charitable gifts in retirement, and donates income to the DAF during her working years, realizing a tax benefit when she has a higher income. When Jane retires, she can continue to donate to her favorite charities from the DAF she pre-funded. There are tax rules surrounding charitable giving, so it’s wise to consult with an advisor as you establish your particular strategy.
    2. Standard deductions – If your total allowable deductions in 2023 are less than $13,850 (individual) or $27,700 (married filing jointly), it may make more sense to take the standard deduction. If you are charitably inclined, consider stacking your donations. For example, George and Kelly Johnson contribute $10,000 per year to their favorite charities. When adding up all deductions, they are generally under the standard deduction threshold by approximately $2,000. In this case, it is more beneficial for them to use the standard deduction for tax filing and stack their charitable giving. To do so, in 2023, they make two years’ worth of donations, or $20,000, to a DAF at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation and plan not to make any donations in 2024. The $20,000 puts them above the standard deduction threshold for 2023, and it now makes sense to itemize their returns with the higher donation amount. In 2024, they will use the standard deduction amount. By doing so, over the two years, they have the potential to realize a greater tax benefit, yet, their chosen charities receive the same amount in donations.

If you are charitably inclined and would like to learn more about whether establishing a donor-advised fund makes sense for your personal financial situation, Creative Planning is here to help. Our advisors view charitable gifting strategies as an important part of the financial planning process and have experience helping clients realize their giving objectives. Contact us for help with your personalized gifting strategy.


  1. https://givingusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/GivingUSA2022_Infographic.pdf
  2. https://www.nptrust.org/reports/daf-report/

This commentary is provided for general information purposes only, should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice, and does not constitute an attorney/client relationship. Past performance of any market results is no assurance of future performance. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources deemed reliable but is not guaranteed.


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