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Donor-advised fund grants exceeded $45B in 2021

Written on Nov 21, 2022

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) reached a new record for grantmaking during 2021 at an estimated $45.74 billion. DAFs also generated the fastest growth rates on record for contributions and charitable assets — funds that will further encourage grantmaking. 

The estimate by the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) was a 28.2% increase compared to 2020 and was 28.3% more than 2019. The 10-year average rate of change for DAF grantmaking is 17.5% for the decade between 2011 to 2020, data from the NPT shows. 

The data is included in the NPT’s 6th annual Donor-Advised Fund Report. The 2022 edition of the report included data from 60 national charities. These national charities which sponsor DAFs had a combined estimated 1,128,475 DAF accounts that granted $32.19 billion during 2021.  

The 995 DAF charitable DAF sponsors tracked in the report comprise less than 0.07% of charitable organizations. The data from three types of DAF charitable sponsors are reported by national charities, community foundations and single-issue charities. 

The sharp increase in grantmaking, more than $10 billion than the prior year, is even steeper than what was observed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Grants from DAFs to qualified charities increased more than 60% during the past two years.  

DAF grants have been on an upward trajectory for more than a decade, the data shows. DAF distributions have more than doubled during the past five years and grown 400% during the past decade. Nonprofit execs say it’s a sign that DAF donors respond quickly in the face of pressing challenges and serve a critical role in sustainable giving.  

Recent contributions and charitable assets increased at rates much greater than the 10-year average. For example, charitable assets in DAFs increased significantly as the stock market surged and donors made more contributions. Historically, periods with very strong growth in charitable assets (20% increases or more) are immediately followed by large increases in grantmaking, according to NPT President & CEO Eileen R. Heisman. 

Contributions to DAFs during 2021 totaled $72.67 billion, an all-time high, according to Heisman. It surpasses the revised 2020 value of $49.47 billion and is a 46.6% year-over-year increase. The compound annual growth rate for contributions from 2017 to 2021 is 23.6%. “A 46.6% growth in contributions in 2021 is highly unusual, according to Heisman. The second-highest annual rate of increase on record is 35.1%, which occurred in 2012.