Our Progress Report: 3 Things You’ll Notice Inside

We just mailed our clients a copy of our 2015 Progress Report. One of the most exciting things they’ll see is that we are closing in on $1 billion in contributions received over the life of DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

I realize everyone creates an annual report. And numbers alone don’t tell the full story of how valuable a DonorsTrust account can be. But for today, let’s focus on three of the report’s seemingly innocuous facts and figures that actually reveal a great deal about the DonorsTrust story.

Gap between median and average account size

The average account size at DonorsTrust and our sister organization, Donors Capital Fund, falls just under half a million dollars. However, the median account size is significantly smaller – $27,348. That means, of course, that while some are clearly very generously funded, half our accounts are less than $27,000.

That massive difference is one of the great benefits of donor-advised funds. DAFs allow a wider range of givers to benefit from their services compared to other charitable tools, particularly private foundations. At DonorsTrust, our opening minimum is $10,000. While you won’t find that amount of loose change hiding in the couch cushions, that is a far more obtainable amount to set aside than what it would take to start a foundation.

Our high payout rate

Most mission-driven funds (such as DonorsTrust) tend to pay out at a rate a little north of 30%, according to the National Philanthropic Trust’s annual study of donor-advised funds. That rate is higher than other DAF types (national funds and community foundations).

DonorsTrust’s payout ratio, however, significantly exceeds this – our lifetime average runs closer to 86%, and in 2015 hit 95%.

That high rate suggests two things about our clients. First, it means they care about putting their charitable dollars to work. The fight for freedom carries on each day, and the sooner we strengthen liberty in society, the longer everyone can enjoy its benefits. Our donors believe this and recommend grants accordingly.

Second, it is a testament to the ease of a donor-advised fund. Our higher payout rate indicates that many donors use their fund to manage their annual giving. If one’s annual contributions consist of giving only to a few groups, checkbook giving is fine. However, when their philanthropic plan is to support many groups at varying amounts and at different times of the year, then donors appreciate the simplicity of making one contribution to DonorsTrust and letting us handle the rest when recommending a grant.

Diversity among our grantees

As a mission-driven fund, we do place some limits on organizations that may receive DonorsTrust grants. In addition to being a registered 501(c)(3) charity, recipient groups can’t work to expand the size and scope of government and must rely primarily on private, not government, funds for their core programs.

That leaves a wide variety of organizations to which our clients can recommend grants. The list of select grantees in our progress report testifies to this diversity.

The list is broken down into arts, civic, medical and science, education, public policy, and religious groups. From Catholic to Jewish (and even agnostic), from chamber music to modern art, and from food shelters to environmental stewardship groups, the list has a wide variety of organizations receiving DonorsTrust support.

One distinguishing feature of DonorsTrust clients is the esteem they give to supporting national and local public policy organizations that promote liberty and a free society. Yet our clients give to organizations that run the full scope of “right-of-center” policy: from libertarian to social conservative, from hawkish to non-interventionist, and everything in between.

What ties these groups and our clients together is a continued focus on liberty and the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. We follow many paths to achieve these goals, and our clients engage in supporting all of those paths toward liberty.

We often say that while DonorsTrust isn’t a fit for every charitable giver, for the ones who share the principles of liberty and limited government, there is no better partner than us. Our progress report paints that picture even more clearly.


  • 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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