Back to Blog

Why are fundraisers down on DAFs? - Part 2

Jun 17, 2023

In Part 1, I highlighted some of the language that Fidelity Charitable uses to talk to their donor-investors about Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), which you can see on this page. 

Fidelity neatly outlines the (their) benefits of a Giving Account (DAFs): 

  • Give more. Save more.
  • Take your time to research the charities you want to support.
  • Giving is made easy.

As nonprofits, may not be able to offer these services or level of attention that a for-profit business can.

Still, I encourage fundraisers to consider some easy, meaningful, and joyful pathways we are able to offer donors and prospects who connect with our mission and impact.

Easier access to giving history

Some nonprofits are able to offer unique access to a donors' giving history; however most do not. I have found it helpful to share the donor's giving history with them in a meeting. When I've shared this, it offers opportunities for deeper discussion - and it often surprises them by the amount they have given over years. I've also used discussing giving histories to thank the donor for their generosity and reinforce the long-term nature of their connection with our organization. You could also do the same with volunteer hours.

Some donors have a to-the-dollar knowledge of their giving history. All donors wish to feel valued for the past contributions and especially for their long-term relationship if their is one. Such conversations can be fruitful when you may be considering the supporter for a capital campaign gift, to ask for a multi-year commitment (say a 4-year commitment at a recent peak giving level), or to test a specific gift amount. 

Encourage donors to "take their time" 

So many fundraisers I know or coach are asked to raise more in an ever upward spiral - almost as if there weren't real people with real lives underpinning the budget lines. The pressure is on fundraisers and some are juggling major gift portfolios of 200+ donors. And when this is the case, we don't actually feel we can offer an attitude of "please, take your time to consider your decision." 

Remember, fundraising it isn't a game of Whac-a-Mole, nabbing gifts from donors before they disappear. As fundraisers and nonprofit leaders seeking more money with less time to devote, donor contact may end up hurried, cursory, or neglected altogether.  I've heard this phrase from clients, "I just need to know if they are giving this year or not!" Because we want to know where to prioritize the limited time and attention for the others in their portfolios.

Our sacred work as fundraisers sits at the intersection of mission, values, and a donor's resources. It deserves the conversation, inspiration, and deliberation for a meaningful gift.

Ensure giving to your organization easy - or at least not frustrating

I don't even presume it is easy because I've learned how much "friction" there is navigating websites, donate buttons, the actual giving page or sometimes getting information needed from an actual person.

Let's work to add the joy of giving for donors in their journey of giving. An easy way to set your nonprofit apart from the several or the dozen or more charities the donor is supporting is through ease of giving, appreciation of the donation, and reporting back. This is just best practices fundraising!

Finally, I want to circle back to the complaints I noted in Part 1:

"I never know who is actually giving with a DAF." 

 "I can't steward these people properly!"

"We have major donors who have stopped giving - how do I know if they are now giving through a DAF?"

Get into conversation with major gift donors. As you develop the relationship between the donor and your nonprofit (and you!) one of the questions you can ask, "What are your preferred ways of giving?" or "What methods of giving make it easier for you to make gifts to your favorite charities?"

Step up your stewardship game. You should have a better than basic stewardship plan for the year. You should be touching people with a mission moment, mission story, and how their gift is working. For major gift donors, this should be 

Check in with lapsed large-gift or past campaign donors. I firmly believe you should be able to pick any random past donor from your database and be able to call and thank them.

  • Lapsed? "Thank you for your support in the past. I would love to share with you how your giving in the past brought us to where we are today, serving...." Works for former board members, leaders and champions as well as past capital campaign supporters.
  • Giving less than last year? "Thanks for continuing to support <the impact>." 

Lastly, be aware that some people enjoy the ease and control of giving through a DAF, some enjoy the anonymity and others embrace both.

Move yourself from a scarcity mindset, move yourself out of the "what's easiest for me" mindset, and away from the "I just need to get to our financial goal" mindset.

/ /