What is a Donor-Advised Fund? Pros and Cons

For many Americans, one of their main financial goals is to support a cause they are deeply committed to. No matter how much money you must spare for charity, knowing how to give it away will help you make the most difference and pay the least amount in taxes. Because of this, it is critical to comprehend donor-advised funds’ benefits and drawbacks before considering this popular form of charitable giving.

 Meaning of Donor-Advised Fund

A third-party organisation called a donor-advised fund (DAF) is created to oversee the philanthropic contributions made by families, individuals, and companies. Rather than directly donating to a charity, the donor sends the money to the fund. The DAF then distributes the funds to charitable organisations.

Even though DAFS has shown to be quite popular, there has been some criticism of the organisation’s operations and social advantages. Let us look at DAFs—what they are, how they are used, and what advantages and disadvantages they have.

Donor-Advised Fund

 Working with Donor-Advised Fund

It all begins with contributors funding a fund with cash or other assets. Donor-advised funds accept contributions in stocks, bonds, cash, cryptocurrencies, and, in certain situations, equity in private companies or real estate.

Donors may be eligible for tax benefits at the point of donation in exchange for their contributions. The assets then remain and increase within the fund. Within a donor-advised fund, all growth is tax-free with no time constraints. Finally, the advisor suggests giving money to deserving nonprofits. The donation process is then finished when the funds are given to the charities. 

Who should consider DAF?

In the following circumstances, they are a great option:

  • If your family has a financial goal and you find charity giving meaningful.
  • Should you possess valuable assets (such as a stock with a significant unrealized capital gain)?
  • If you wish to schedule significant donations during the years so you can finish Roth conversions in retirement.

Pros of DAF (Donor-Advised Fund)

1. An Immediate Tax Deduction

Donations are deductible from your taxes in the same way as other charity contributions. However, you are not required to immediately donate funds to a charity because donor advised funds allow you to store and invest assets. Tax benefits are available up front; nevertheless, your gift should be done in later years.

Contributing unrealized capital gains on assets is another special tax benefit. You can gift stocks as an in-kind donation, for instance, if you paid $50,000 for them many years ago and they are now worth $100,000. This prevents you from individually realizing capital gains and instead transfers the tax base to the donor advised fund, which is then subject to 0% tax.

2. Timing and gift amount flexibility

The decision of when and how to distribute funds rests with you, the fund advisor. Let us take an example where you decide to give $100,000 of your sizable inheritance to charity. The funds are invested in index funds and placed in a donor-advised fund. After that, for the following thirty years, you donate $5,000 annually to important causes. You can donate significantly more than the initial amount because the money is invested, and the value increases. You have just been able to give more than you otherwise might have, thanks to your DAF!

Unlike other charitable foundations, donor-advised funds don’t have a minimum distribution obligation. Thus, you can leave your fund unopened for an extended period, allowing the gifts to accumulate into a substantial charitable sum.

3. The potential for tax-free philanthropic asset growth

Donor-advised funds allow you to contribute assets that grow tax-free. You will increase the size of your donations as you begin investing and making donations. This greatly encourages people to donate now rather than delay till later in life.

4. Donor maintains authority over funds

Sponsors of donor-advised funds have access to a range of investment opportunities. You get to choose the kinds of assets that the money is invested in because you run your fund.

Long-term growth investments with increased risk may be ideal for those who wish to donate over longer time horizons. A less hazardous investment option is preferable if the funds are intended for immediate use.

5. Facilitates the planning of generational estates

Having a donor-advised fund enables you to leave a charitable legacy. You might designate your children or other heirs as fund advisers so that they can carry on your charitable work long after you are gone.

The Cons of Donor-Advised Funds

1. There are not many investment possibilities

The range of investment possibilities available can be restricted, depending on the financial platform you select for fund set up. Even the biggest sponsors, such as Vanguard Charitable or Fidelity Charitable, provide a wide range of blended stock/bond funds.

This could be frustrating, based on your timeframe and preferred method of investing. Investigating every sponsor’s choice before establishing a donor-advised fund is crucial. Every DAF organization is not created equal.

2. Account and fund fees

There are a few hidden costs to be aware of while creating a donor-advised fund.

A yearly account fee comes first. Certain sponsors impose a fixed, minimal cost. They provide DAFs for as cheap as $3 a month, just like Daffy! Some take a portion of the money in your account. like Schwab Charitable, which deducts 0.6% from the amount in your account.

The fund fees come next. There is a management fee, which is determined by a proportion of your fund balance, just like any mutual fund. Certain providers provide index products with as low as 02%. Some cost up to 1.5% in management fees! Regretfully, less money goes to charity the more fees you ultimately pay! So, picking a low-cost supplier is VERY crucial.

3. You cannot revoke donations

Giving only goes so far! Money contributed to a donor-advised fund can only be withdrawn when it is awarded to a qualified charity. Donors are prohibited from withdrawing cash directly from those funds.

Since you are in control of assets increasing over time, a donor-advised fund may have similarities to a brokerage account. However, it’s crucial to remember that a DAF’s main objective is to give.

4. Investing poorly can reduce the impact of donations

There is always some risk involved with investing. However, certain funds are riskier than others. In bear markets, when bond and equity values decline, your donor-advised fund may significantly reduce size. It is unfortunate because organizations usually require funds at that time! Donor-advised fund assets ought to be invested sensibly, considering the risk and duration of the donor’s giving strategy.


The donor-advised fund offers great flexibility, as you can see. It can distribute donations in one single sum after accepting them gradually over an extended period. Alternatively, it can get a substantial infusion of funds all at once and disburse modest grants over an extended period. You can decide how you would like to handle the giving lifecycle.

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