DonorsTrust Clients Speak On Why They Use Us

DonorsTrust is one of more than 1,000 donor-advised fund providers across the country. We represent a segment of those providers known as “mission-driven” funds, but there are many other types offered by national banks, brokerages, and local community foundations.

The core set of features and benefits are synonymous among all of these organizations. DAFs, as donor-advised funds are often abbreviated, offer a great way to consolidate giving of appreciated stock, to gain flexibility over the timing of gifts, to add additional privacy for one’s giving, or to unload the paperwork burden of managing a private foundation. (For more compelling benefits, download the free resource 6 Reasons to Use a Donor-Advised Fund).

So why choose DonorsTrust?

At the end of 2017, we conducted a client survey to help us better understand the motivations of those we work with every day. I recently read back through the results and realized how helpful their feedback is to understanding the benefits that go beyond the usual marketing language.

So, to answer that question, let’s hear from those who already rely on us for their charitable giving. Here are highlights, in their own words.

A Service, Not a Tool

The most significant piece of feedback that compared us to other DAFs, particularly the commercial DAFs, pointed to the fact that working with DonorsTrust was a full-service complement to the donor’s giving, not just a money-in, money-out tool.

For one donor, that meant, “Having someone on the phone that is on my side, that’s intelligent, that HAS an opinion. Fidelity would just [offer] a computer or a super junior person.”

Another donor noted, “DT feels small and has a personalized experience.”

We are small staff-wise – only eight full-time staffers – especially given our growing asset base (which now exceeds $400 million). That enables us to better know our clients and understand their interests. It allows us to be more nimble than larger and more bureaucratic organizations. (By the way, to keep up with the demands of our growing client base and to ensure we maintain this personalized service, we are adding additional administrative and technology staff over the next several months).

A Partner in Giving

One of the big surprises in the survey was that a number of DonorsTrust clients expressed insecurity about their philanthropic strategies (in direct contrast with how confident they were with their business dealings). Many of these same donors start companies and lead teams and know how to earn capital, but are less comfortable with the business of giving it away.

That discovery extends to the idea of being a service and not just a tool. Many clients noted the value they get in working with an organization that both shares a set of values with them and is also willing to offer advice and counsel in their philanthropy.

“[DonorsTrust] can look at things and say ‘this is a great outfit, its intentions are pure gold, but they are not strategic,” explained one donor.

Added another donor, “None of [the other providers] have the ideological element and protection that DonorsTrust has.” They note how we offer a sort of filtering mechanism for liberty-minded donors, helping them understand the landscape in the non-profit world and identifying the right questions to ask to ensure that the donor meets his or her goals.

That matters to donors, because, as one admitted, they often aren’t thinking about how to ensure donor intent. “[DonorsTrust] worr[ies] about donor intent; I don’t…because I’m alive.”

People Matter

For a personalized service to work, the persons have to create a positive experience. Several of the survey respondents spoke of the value of individuals on the team and how they personally helped the donor with his or her giving.

Our long-time DonorsTrust clients in the survey spoke glowingly of our late president, Whitney Ball. Whitney truly was a force, and brought an immense amount of passion to her role leading DonorsTrust and in advising so many donors. One donor described her as, “Smart as a whip. Knew everything going on. Fearless. Plugged into the movement.” Another said, “Whitney showed me how to get the best bang for my buck.”

That human connection is one we work hard to continue. Our team is always happy to chat with donors and explore their aims. Philanthropy is a human endeavor and we insist on maintaining that human role. DonorsTrust clients indicated how relationship-driven much of their philanthropy is: “Emailing them or interacting with them in person, developing a [sustained] relationship…That’s the kind of relationship I want to have.”

The Classics Are True Too

The donors in our survey were fully aware of the broader benefits of donor-advised funds as well, from simplicity to flexibility to privacy.

Many in our sample were tuned into the particular value of leveraging a DAF as a vehicle for stock donations. A few quotes along those lines:

“Accelerating your deductions with appreciated securities all in one year. Get your tax deduction today if you need it.”

“If you think you are about to start losing money on your investments, get it out today and donate it to a DAF.”

“I was looking for the best leverage on my money.”

But perhaps this comment sums of the mix of right- and left-brain thinking of so many of our reflective account-holders: “If you are trying to change the world with your money, this is the most tax and cost efficient way to do it.”

Do you want to change the world in an efficient way and with a partner that shares your values? As you can see, that’s what drives DonorsTrust clients. If it animates you as well, talk to us about how a DonorsTrust donor-advised fund can be the unique solution for your philanthropy.


  • 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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