Nonprofit Law Jargon Buster – Donor Advised Fund

Donor Advised FundIn 2011, donor-advised funds reached an all-time high for assets under management and grants. The popularity and growth of donor-advised funds motivated congress to define and regulate them for the first time in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 (“Act”) offered the first definition of a donor-advised fund.  According to the Act, a fund must have the following three characteristics to be a donor-advised fund, and if any of these characteristics is missing, the fund is not a donor-advised fund:

1.  Separate Identification. The fund is separately identified with reference to the contribution of a donor or donors. Separate identification is present when the fund is named after a donor or persons related to the donor. Separate identification is also present if the nonprofit organization's accounting system tracks the donor of the contribution on the nonprofit's books.

2.  Ownership and Control by Sponsoring Organization. The sponsoring organization (a charitable organization that is not a private foundation) must own and control the fund; and

3.  Advisory Privileges. The donor (or a person appointed by the donor) must have or must reasonably expect to have, the privilege of providing advice with respect to the fund's investments or distributions.

The Act specifically excludes funds held for a single designated organization or a single governmental entity as donor advised. In addition, funds that are merely restricted as to purpose are generally not considered donor advised funds. For example, gifts made for a particular purpose, such as a building project, are not considered donor advised because once the perimeters are set, the donor does not continue to advise the nonprofit on distributions from or investments of the contributed funds.

Ellis Carter is a nonprofit lawyer with Caritas Law Group, PC. To contact Ellis, call 602-456-0071 or email us at

3 thoughts on “Nonprofit Law Jargon Buster – Donor Advised Fund

  1. I have had a donor advised fund and Vanguard Charitable for 6 years. I love needing to track only one donation for tax purposes.

    Plus my funds at the donor advised fund are invested 25% in equities and ofter grow beyond the absolute dollars I put in there to begin with.

  2. My church just started a scholarship fund. The fund accepts public donations from our congregation and local businesses. The fund is not named in honor of anyone. We do not have separate incorporation; the scholarship is an integrated ministry under the church’s 501c(3). The church is the sponsoring organization. We have documented eligibility criteria and a selection committee made up of members of the church and one independent member not affiliated with the church as a reader of the essay. However, some members of the selection committee have given donations to the scholarship fund. We tracked their donations in order to provide them with a tax deduction at the end of the year. Is it safe say that we would not be considered a DAF? Thanks.

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