Discerning the True Policy Debate over Donor-Advised Funds

Ellen Steele & Eugene Steuerle, The Urban Institute

The use of DAFs as a low-cost option to give to public charities has risen considerably, making them one of the more popular vehicles for charitable giving. One factor for their appeal is that individuals can take an immediate tax deduction against the full amount they contribute. Essentially, the gifts may be deductible in greater amounts than giving the same gifts to a private foundation. While donors may advise charities on how to distribute the funds, it is important to note that charities are not legally obligated to do as the donor requests. Although the charity may be responsive to the wishes of the donor-advisors, DAFs require donors to give up control over the investment and distribution of the funds. This brief summarizes and distinguishes the policy issues and debates surrounding Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs). As DAFs generally are not required to adhere to the rules and regulations of private foundations this brief also contains a useful summary comparison of major differences in the laws and regulations applicable to public charities providing DAFs, other public charities and private foundations.

Global Topics: Nonprofit Capital
Focus Areas: Nonprofit Capital
Resource Types: Policy Brief