Tag Archives: commercial donor-advised funds

Wall Street 9, Charity 0

The news last week was stunning, but at the same time utterly unsurprising: When The Chronicle of Philanthropy compiled its annual Philanthropy 400 list of the nonprofit organizations that had raised the most money in the United States last year, the top dog was not United Way or the Salvation Army, but Fidelity Charitable.

The finding sparked a series of stories around the country: The New Yorker,  The Washington Post , The San Francisco Chronicle, The American Prospect, and National Public Radio, to name a few. Journalists are gob-smacked by the idea that an affiliate of a financial services firm could claim the title of top charity – and that it did so by the hefty margin of $900 million over United Way Worldwide. (Last year Fidelity’s take rose 20%; United Way’s dropped 4%.)

But those of you who have been reading my rants about the commercial donor-advised fund industry have seen this coming for five years. It’s like watching the sea levels rise from climate change. We’ve long known what was going to happen. Now, the evidence is incontrovertible. I take some grim satisfaction in the news, but mostly I feel despair. Continue reading

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A Closer Look at One Donor-Advised Fund’s Questionable Pay-out Numbers

[Note: This post was co-published on July 20, 2015 in Inside Philanthropy.]

It’s one thing for organizations to spin information in a way that puts them in the best possible light. But the recent effort by Fidelity Charitable to overstate the rate of its annual grantmaking seems to be intentionally misleading. Fidelity arrives at its number through an accounting sleight of hand that demands deconstruction and rebuffing. Continue reading

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Wall Street’s Charitable Gold Rush

[Note: This article was co-posted February 25, 2015, in Inside Philanthropy.]

The unbridled growth of donor-advised funds (DAFs) is the biggest story in philanthropy. Some startling facts:

  • Contributions to DAFs were 252% higher in 2013 than in 2009, and by all accounts 2014 was another record-breaking year.
  • Three of the top ten organizations in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s most recent “Philanthropy 400”—the annual listing of the nonprofits that have raised the most money—were commercial donor-advised fund sponsors (Fidelity, Schwab, and Vanguard). A fourth was another DAF sponsor, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
  • Gifts to donor-advised funds represented 7.1 percent of all charitable donations from individuals in 2013, a doubling of DAFs’ percentage of charitable giving from only three years before.

This is more than a trend. It’s a tsunami. But what does this all mean for the nonprofit sector? Continue reading

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The Year in Review

Yes, I write a lot about donor-advised funds. That’s because their surge in popularity is the biggest story in philanthropy – and, to my mind, a growing threat to an already-battered nonprofit sector.
Here are 2014’s eight biggest developments around the donor-advised fund phenomenon. Continue reading

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