Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version

1-30-2019

Abstract

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are becoming increasingly popular. DAFs receive a growing share of all charitable donations and control a sizable proportion of grants made to other nonprofits. The growth of DAFs has generated controversy over their function as intermediary philanthropic vehicles. Using a panel data set of 996 DAF organizations from 2007 to 2016, this article provides an empirical analysis of DAF activity. We conduct longitudinal analyses of key DAF metrics, such as grants and payout rates. We find that a few large organizations heavily skew the aggregated data for a rather heterogeneous group of nonprofits. These panel data are then analyzed with macroeconomic indicators to analyze changes in DAF metrics during economic recessions. We find that, in general, DAF grantmaking is relatively resilient to recessions. We also find payout rates increased during times of recession, as did a new variable we call the flow rate.

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Date Posted:30 January 2019