Tag Archives: National Philanthropic Trust

Strange Math

Here’s the world’s simplest math problem.

My wife Pat and I often meet a pair of friends for a movie. If there’s a risk that the show will sell out, I run over to the theater ahead of time and buy all four tickets in advance. When our friends arrive, we hand them their tickets and they pay us back what they owe us.

So the question is this: how many tickets did the movie theater sell?

Four, of course.

But in the parallel universe of donor-advised funds (DAFs), where double-counting comes as naturally as breathing and dissembling, the answer would be six.

Let me try to explain the inexplicable. 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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