State of DonorsTrust: Growing To Serve the Liberty Community

The genesis for creating DonorsTrust nearly twenty years ago was the preservation of donor intent.

This was not, however, grounded in blind devotion to the belief that any donor’s intent was to be maintained. Instead, DonorsTrust would safeguard the donor who saw private markets, free exchange, and increased personal responsibility as the keys to progress.

Most importantly, such protection could continue a generation beyond the donor’s lifetime if that is what he or she desired. Thus, the board of directors created a mechanism to enhance the number of individuals who employed a philanthropic strategy that empowered private actions to affect social change while simultaneously limited the growth of government within the charitable sector.

For those of us who work here, that means we have many bosses. We do not operate as a private foundation, where program staff report to a board of directors that disburse funds from a single account that has been funded by a single entity to address specific changes. DonorsTrust does NOT seek specific outcomes, policy changes nor strategies, but, instead serves our donors by making it easier and possible for them to achieve the changes they desire.

This is our Big Tent strategy – we do not restrict our clients to a list of pre-selected charities to which they can make grant recommendations. Instead, we rely on them to determine what is possible, to identify through their own localized knowledge those non-profits that are trying to do good without seeking significant government payouts along the way.

And The Tent Is Growing

DonorsTrust has always been small in the boutique sense of knowing our client base. But these last few years we have a growing number of new members of the DonorsTrust family, and many more charities that they recommend we support (now well over 1,800), and, honestly, it’s getting hard to keep up.

That’s good, of course, but if our business model is to serve as our client’s private philanthropic banker, then we need to make sure we have enough tellers to handle the growing lines in our lobby.

More donors is good for business. But it’s even better for those organizations trying to address the many challenges we witness in our communities and nation. Our clients are the ones providing the funding stream, and these groups need that fuel to succeed.

Accordingly, we have added some new staff in the last few months who will improve our ability to serve our base. When our clients call the office, they will hear new voices answering the phone. Rose and Jeffrey and Tom are now working on our grants processing and administration. Led by our long-time CFO, Jeff Zysik, this group ensures our donors’ contributions and grants are handled quickly and correctly.

The marketing and client development team now includes Peter, Lydia, Staci and Gordon. They are focused on connecting with current and prospective clients in a more methodical manner. We seek regular conversations by phone or in person as the team travels the country.

Grounded in Our Principles

It’s important to note that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” DonorsTrust remains grounded in the notion that ideas matter and have consequences. But we don’t stop there. We champion the concepts that lead to dignity, value and freedom. We contest those that limit opportunity, demean, and restrict. More specifically, we recognize the difference between public and private sectors when it comes to addressing societal issues.

Government is instituted among us, to quote Mr. Jefferson, not to grant the inherent rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but instead to secure these rights. In other words, government exists to protect the ability of the individual citizen to collaborate, pursue, create, engage, foster, lead, and solve problems.

When applied to the philanthropic world, this means that government fences itself off from interfering with private actors and institutions that address society’s needs.

(Read the actual Internal Revenue Service code that defines a public charity and you will encounter a comprehensive list of precisely the areas that government expects the private sector to own and address).

That is our world. It is why our clients provide funds to organizations that recognize the inherent value in promoting limited public institutions. It’s why the DonorsTrust board unapologetically demands that family members, friends and grant recipients preserve that funding intent and philosophy. It is a tangible reminder that our wealth, freely earned and freely provided to private actors, is vastly more effective than government largesse, involuntarily taken and involuntarily given.

For us, the individual philanthropist drives positive change in many areas: public policy, science & health, medical research, environmental conservation, civic responsibility, the arts, poverty alleviation, religion, and so much more.

At DonorsTrust, we provide a host of services – donor advised accounts, strategic venture funds, fiscal sponsorships, and philanthropic programs for young professionals – that offer donors innovative ways to use their charitable dollars to advance these goals.

Give us a call; we look forward to working together.



  • Lawson Bader

    Since 2015, Lawson Bader serves as president and CEO of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Before coming to DonorsTrust, he amassed twenty years’ experience leading free-market research and advocacy groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He began his career in DC in as special assistant at the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, then worked as a legislative analyst/paralegal with Pierson, Semmes & Finley, and managed government relations at SRI International. He is a former weekly columnist with Human Events, and a current contributor to Kiplinger and member of the Forbes Nonprofit Council. He also serves on the governing boards of the Atlas Network, State Policy Network, and Oakseed Ministries International. Lawson earned a BA in political science from Wheaton College (IL) and an MA in public policy from The Johns Hopkins University.

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