Benefits of DAFS: Privacy and being understood

Give the way you want to give. That should be the goal of any charitable tool. Frankly, it is why many people continue to simply give directly. Over time, though, as one’s giving expands, you may want a tool that will allow you to maintain the emphasis on giving.

We’ve previously discussed the flexibility that donor-advised funds offer to donors and the tax benefits as well. Today, we will go further with the idea of how donor-advised funds let you give in the way you want to give, first by being more private in your giving and second by showing how the variety among donor-advised fund providers gives you the chance to work with an organization that aligns with your interests.

5) Give as publicly or privately as you’d like
Some people value the recognition that can come from charitable giving. Others are ambivalent to recognition beyond a polite thank you note. Still others prefer to do their giving privately and without any recognition, be it from the grantee or anyone else.

With a private foundation or even with checkbook giving, it is very difficult if not impossible to give privately. In the case of a private foundation, all giving is publicly available through the private foundation’s required IRS filings. In the case of a personal gift to a charitable organization that is considered to be publicly supported, your name is not publicly available – unless the organization publishes its donor list – but the organization will of course know.

Donor-advised funds offer a donor any level of privacy they want from the receiving organization. That level of privacy can even change grant to grant. A donor can ask the fund provider to share their full name with one favored grantee and keep their identity private from other.

Why do some choose to do their giving privately? As with any charitable decision, each person is different.

  • A common reason is that folks want to stay off mailing lists. Giving privately allows them to avoid the mountain of solicitations that come over time.
  • Others have religious reasons related to the benefits of giving without recognition.
  • Others may be supporting a sensitive or personal cause that could endanger familial or professional harmony.

Whether or not a client has a current interest in shielding their identity, the benefit of additional privacy is there should it be needed.

6) Partner with an organization that shares your principles
There is a diverse selection of more than 1,000 donor-advised fund providers in the United States. Take the time to find the one that meets your needs. There are three types of donor-advised fund providers: the national funds, often attached to banks or investment firms and holding a broad-based charitable mission; community foundations, which focus on a single geographic region; and the cause-related funds, which are organized around some principle, ideology, or mission.

Many givers find their philanthropy tends to center around certain ideas or principles. Because of this, donors should take the time to investigate if there are certain community foundations or cause-related funds that might help them focus on their core interests more than the national providers.

There are two reasons for taking this step of exploring the full landscape: understanding and intent. By matching up with a fund provider that shares your interests, you’ll gain a resource that understands the causes you care about and can help you identify additional groups that may advance those issues. Second, a provider that shares your interests or aligns with your principles may be in a better position to carry out your donor intent after you are gone.

We recently had a donor come to us after years at another donor-advised fund. That fund offered fine service, he told us, but he liked the idea of being with an organization that really understood his principles and knew the organizations that he supported. Everyone deserves to work with a partner that really understands their interests.

Further reading:
Understanding the importance of donor intent


  • Peter Lipsett

    Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

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