Tag Archives: Schwab Charitable

Charity, Incorporated

It seems that every time I set out to write about topics other than donor-advised funds, fresh news explodes on the scene that requires my attention, and yours. This week it’s the astounding – but not at all surprising – announcement by the Chronicle of Philanthropy that six of the ten top fundraising organizations in the nonprofit world in 2016 were donor-advised fund sponsors.

Five of those organizations – Fidelity Charitable (#1 on the list for the second year in a row), Schwab (#6), National Christian Foundation (#8), Silicon Valley Community Foundation (#9), and Vanguard Charitable (#10) were among the eleven top fundraisers the year before. The newcomer at the top of the charts, bursting onto the scene at number three, with a jaw-dropping one-year increase in donations of 450%, was the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund, which brought in over $3.1 billion.

That Goldman Sachs, the corporate embodiment of Wall Street avarice and power, should appear on the list of top charitable fundraisers is not surprising to those of us following this story: there’s money to be made in donor-advised funds, and if the folks at Goldman Sachs know one thing, it’s how to turn a profit. It’s only surprising that it took them this long. Continue reading

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Strange Math

[A version of this piece appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on July 13, 2017.]

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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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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