Something for Everyone: Special Interest DAFs

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As donor advised funds have become more widely used, the number and type of organizations that are sponsors of DAFs has also increased.  While a 2021 report from the Lilly School of Philanthropy found that the majority of donor-advised funds supported educational and religious organizations, those interest areas have continued to expand. In recent years, special-interest sponsors have been established that help create a collective of donors interested in one or more philanthropic interest. Similarly, some long-established nonprofit organizations have created their own dedicated support sponsorships to better connect with donors and help them feel invested in their cause.


University-run sponsorships have grown significantly in the past 15 years. CASE noted in a 2015 report that the number of university-sponsored DAFs “quadrupled between 2007 and 2012.” Some of the schools that administer their own funds include Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University (establishment minimum: $100,000), University of California-Los Angeles (establishment minimum: $250,000), Drexel University, Ball State University (establishment minimum: $1,000), University of Kentucky and Wheaton College (Illinois).

Others, like the University of Maryland and Clarkson University use an outside firm to administer their funds. University-sponsored DAFs often require that a donor ultimately grants a minimum disbursement to the school. CASE found that the average requirement was 50 percent of the fund’s remainder.

Healthcare organizations are getting involved as DAF sponsors, too. The Calvary Fund of Calvary Hospital, based in New York, offers donors the option of establishing a fund at their organization. The American Heart Association (establishment minimum: $25,000), the Mayo Clinic (establishment minimum: $100,000), Dakota Medical Foundation and others also enable donors with a specific interest in healthcare to establish funds at their organization.

Some nonprofits are adding donor-advised funds to their charitable work. Rotary International now offers a donor-advised fund (establishment minimum: $10,000). In their marketing materials, they note that in addition to a donor portal, they also offer specialists who can assist donors over the phone with their gift recommendations. Donors can make contributions to domestic and international organizations. Similar to the university sponsors mentioned above, Rotary requires that each DAF they sponsor makes a mandatory $250 contribution each year to the Rotary’s annual fund.


Organizations working with nonprofits and donors alike to further social change are also creating DAF sponsorships. University Impact, based in Utah, “is a nonprofit that invests in companies and nonprofits solving social and environmental problems. Investments are focused on funding the most promising social ventures.” Their commitment to impact investing is based upon the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, such as eliminating poverty, improving health, gender equality, clean water, quality education, climate action and world peace. The minimum to establish a fund is $5,000.Additionally, University Impact trains and hires university students to work as investment associates and learn more about the social good.

FJC, based in New York, has been in operation for more than 20 years. Their specialty is “creative philanthropy,” working with donors and nonprofits to collaborate on ways to improve the public good. They have no minimum contribution amount and the amount needed to open a fund is $5,000.

MakeWay (formerly the Tides Foundation of Canada), hosts more than 150 donor advised funds on behalf of individuals and communities across Canada. They have brought together donors and organizations working to further the bond between nature and its citizens. Through their work, they have partnered with more than 200 foundations and 2,500 individuals and families across the nation. Some of their priorities include an equitable charitable sector, climate action, inclusive leadership, indigenous food security, economic health and indigenous rights. In addition to traditional donor-advised funds, the organization offers community advised funds (CAFs), which lets community-appointed leaders make decisions for a larger group that decides upon the priorities and financial distributions. The minimum to open a fund for an individual or community group is $5,000.

Organizations such as RSF Social Finance, focus on social and environmental impact grants. RSF, notes that their donors are active philanthropists, often donating more than 60 percent of their assets each year. The minimum to establish a fund is $5,000.

Seeding Justice, which calls their accounts Donor-in-Movement Funds, aims to change the perception that assets in DAFs take years to distribute by guaranteeing that fund assets are distributed within 12 months. The Oregon-based group allocates 50 percent of a donor’s fund to their grantmaking committee, 40 percent to groups of the donors’ choice and 10 percent to provide operational support to Seeding Justice. They also provide networking opportunities and other education resources for their donors.

Similarly, the Amalgamated Foundation (establishment minimum: $5,000) requests that donors pledge to donate at least 10 percent of their fund assets each year. They note that their investments are 100% fossil free and support community development investment.

LGBTQIA donors can establish a fund at the Horizons Foundation with a minimum of $5,000. They are the only organization in California and one of only several in the United States that was established by and directed towards the LGBTQ community. Their website notes that there are currently more than 150 donor advisors. Texas Pride Impact Funds is a grantmaking organization as well as a DAF administrator. A minimum investment of $10,000 is required to open a fund.

Some religious organizations have their own specific DAFs which allow donors to give to faith-based organizations of their choice, as well as other areas of interest. Organizations such as the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Metrowest NJ (establishment minimum: $5,000), National Christian Foundation, the Church of Jesus Christ (though it is administered by an outside organization) and the American Muslim Community Foundation all provide a philanthropic outlet for those that want to give within their faith.

While many potential DAF donors think of the larger financial firms or community foundations dominating the DAF space, there are options out there for almost everyone. It takes a little digging, but if you’re passionate about a specific issue there are ways to connect that community and your philanthropy, where everyone benefits.