Charitable giving through donor-advised funds (DAFs) has grown in popularity in recent years. Generally, creating a DAF requires no more than completing a short application and making an initial contribution as low as $10,000 to a sponsoring organization, such as a community foundation. You recommend which charities should receive gifts, and the sponsoring organization takes care of the record keeping and legal work necessary to create and manage the DAF. The assets you contribute are removed from your taxable estate.

DAFs provide several advantages, particularly for high-income individuals. For example, they can help you:

1.      Separate tax planning from charitable planning. When you make a contribution to a DAF, you receive an immediate tax deduction up to 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for gifts of cash and up to 30% of your AGI for gifts of appreciated assets (with a five-year carryforward on gifts that exceed the limits). And you can make contributions even before you’ve decided which charity you’d like to ultimately receive the funds or when that gift will be made.

2.      Make larger gifts. When you contribute appreciated stock to a DAF, you receive a charitable deduction equal to its full fair market value (subject to the 30% AGI limit noted above) while avoiding the capital gains tax as long as you’ve held the stock for at least one year before the contribution. You can effectively make more generous charitable gifts than if you sold the stock and then donated the after-tax proceeds.

3.      Pursue growth opportunities. DAFs typically offer a variety of investment options. Therefore, contributions have the potential to grow while you determine how best to earmark the funds.

4.      Allow for continued involvement in making grant recommendations from the fund to any U.S.-based public charity.  For example, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM) allows that anyone can be a fund advisor. CFSEM policy currently allows for up to two generations of advisors. Following the death or resignation of the last advisor, the remaining fund balance is held as a permanent endowment fund in the name selected by the donor.

5.      Build a family or business tradition of philanthropy by engaging your children in decisions about which charities should receive gifts from the DAF.

6.      You can specify whether a DAF should be identified by name or should be anonymous– as you choose

7.      Avoid the private foundation investment excise tax and mandatory payout requirements

8.      Include professional management services and a choice of investment strategies to meet your charitable objectives

9. Legacy planning-- The DAF can be organized as a permanent or non-permanent named fund

Contributing to a DAF could help you achieve both charitable giving and tax and estate planning goals — all at once. Contact us for further guidance.