Donor-advised funds are a convenient and flexible way to fulfill your charitable giving goals

Learn how donor-advised funds like the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund can help you support the causes you care about while potentially receiving tax deductions for your contributions.

What is a donor-advised fund, and how does it work?

A donor-advised fund, or DAF, is a vehicle for charitable giving that lets you make an irrevocable contribution to the fund, for which you receive an immediate tax deduction.

It is operated by a sponsor or sponsoring organization that invests and manages the donated assets.

DAFs have grown in popularity amid heightened interest in charitable giving. A recent report from the Giving USA Foundation reported that charitable giving in the United States reached a record $471 billion in 2020.

How much do I need to open a DAF?

The minimum initial contribution to the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund (PDF) is $10,000. As a donor, when you contribute cash or securities to a DAF, you’ll receive an immediate tax deduction. The assets you contribute grow tax-free.

Donors can contribute to the fund as often as they like and request that distributions be made to IRS-approved public charities of their choosing.

How can I invest in a donor-advised fund?

The Edward Jones DAF is called the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund (PDF). Investing in DAFs typically follows the three-step progression summarized below:

 Chart image explaining the donor-advised fund process.

Source: Edward Jones

The purpose of this chart is to explain the donor-advised fund process. In the first step, a donor makes a contribution of cash or marketable securities to the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund. The money is invested based on your preferences, and any investment growth is tax-free. The donor recommends grants/distribution to charities you wish to support, when to support them and the amount you wish to give.


  1. Contribute - A donor may make an irrevocable contribution of cash or marketable securities to the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund and receive an immediate charitable income tax deduction.
     
  2. Advise -  The money in the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund is invested based on your preferences. Any investment growth is tax-free, expanding your charitable impact.
     
  3. Recommend -  You recommend grants/distribution to the charities you wish to support, when to support them and the amount you wish to give. Your grants may go only to IRS-approved charities.

What are some of the financial or tax benefits of a donor-advised fund?

The main advantages of DAFs are that they offer a simple and convenient way to maximize charitable giving while receiving an upfront tax deduction.

Several other potential DAF tax-related benefits are worth noting:

  • Front-loading your giving: If you plan to make consistent charitable contributions, you can use a DAF to “front-load” your charitable gifts by making the equivalent of multiple annual gifts in one year. This means you may be able to itemize your deductions and realize a larger deduction in the current tax year, and you can request a grant be made to the charities you support over subsequent years. Remember: You’ll receive the tax deduction in the year you contribute to the fund, not when the money is granted to the charity.

    This strategy may be beneficial if you have had an unusually high-income year when your marginal tax rate is also typically higher, so the benefits from charitable giving in those years would be greater than in subsequent, lower-income years. Similarly, you may want to consider giving now if you expect your taxable income to be lower in the future.
     
  • Lowering capital gains: If you own investments that have significantly increased in value, contributing them to a charity or DAF allows you to avoid paying taxes on the capital gains. This means the charity receives more of the proceeds than if you were to sell the security and gift the after-tax proceeds. You can also take an income tax deduction for donations of securities.

Giving $100,000 of stock to charity with $90,000 of long-term capital gains.

This is an example of the difference between giving a stock to a DAF versus selling it for cash and how each affects capital gains tax and/or amount given to charity.

 If you give the stock to a DAFIf you sell the stock for cash
Capital gains tax1$0$18,000
Amount given to charity$100,000$82,000

1 Assumes 20% capital gains tax rate and no fluctuation in value.

  • Cutting estate taxes: Assets you contribute to a DAF are not included in your estate, so they don’t count toward your total estate value. Investing in DAFs can therefore reduce the size of your taxable estate.
     
  • Helping with your taxes: Using a DAF may improve your recordkeeping for tax reporting purposes. Donating first to the fund and then granting to multiple charities allows for a single donation receipt. And as part of their services, the third-party administrators responsible for the day-to-day operations of a DAF will ensure the charities you support are approved by the IRS before fulfilling your grant request, making certain your donations are eligible for an income tax deduction.

A DAF has several other advantages beyond the potential tax benefits listed above:

  • A DAF allows your contributions to be invested, providing an opportunity for the money you put toward your charitable gifts to grow over time, tax-free.
     
  • These funds allow for joint or supervised charitable giving, which means you can pass along your values to your loved ones by sharing with them the principles of charitable giving. And naming your children or other people as successor advisers lets them continue making charitable gifts in your name after your death.
     
  • A DAF can be a beneficiary of your will, trust, annuity, insurance contract, retirement plan or investment account.
     
  • While family foundations offer more control over investment options, administration and granting, DAFs can offer many of the same benefits at a lower cost to set up and maintain.
     
  • Some people may wish to maintain a close relationship with each charity they support, while others may find the resulting volume of solicitations undesirable. With a DAF, you can remain anonymous to the charities you support.
     
  • A DAF lets you honor a loved one’s legacy in two ways: You can designate a grant to be made in memory of your loved one, or a new DAF can be set up in their memory for friends and family to make contributions.

What should I consider when using donor-advised funds?

As outlined above, DAFs have several key benefits, but there are important trade-offs to consider, too:

  • Contributions are irrevocable (once you contribute to the fund, you cannot access that money). Grants can only be made to IRS-approved charities.
     
  • There are potential risks associated with the investments in the fund. Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund offers seven professionally managed portfolios ranging from conservative to more aggressive. You can invest in up to two of these portfolios to align to the expect time horizon and risk tolerance of your granting.
     
  • While a DAF can be cost-effective and offers streamlined administration, using one restricts the range of investments available to you. Other giving strategies may offer greater control. See the chart below for a comparison of various giving strategies.
     
  • While a DAF is a low-cost alternative to a private foundation, it still has investment management and other fees associated with it.

Comparing ways to give

This table explains how to contribute to a DAF along with other details about each option.

 Edward Jones Charitable Gift FundCashCharitable lead or remainder trustPrivate foundation
Types of organizations you can supportIRS-approved public charitiesPublic charities, private foundations and individuals (not all are eligible for an income tax deduction)IRS-approved public charities and some foundationsAs long as the grant is made for charitable purposes, many different organizations and individuals
Setup cost, maintenance and time to establishLowerLowerHigherHigher
Potential to grow the assetsYesNoYesYes
Investment optionsOne of seven professionally managed portfoliosN/AA broader set of investment optionsA broader set of investment options
Income tax deduction limit as a percentage of AGI60% for cash, 30% for appreciated securities100%*Depends on the type of charity and trust30% for cash, 20% for appreciated securities
Tax on investment income0%N/ADepends on the nature of the trust1.39% of net investment income
Ability to donate to the charity anonymouslyYesNoYesNo

*The CARES Act increased this amount from 60% to 100% through 2021. In 2022, the limit you can deduct in any calendar year will revert to 60% with a five-year carry forward. These limits may be changed by law or regulation.

Additional considerations and rules:

  • The minimum grant size is $250. A DAF may not be suitable if you wish to give smaller amounts.
     
  • There is a delay between the time you request a grant and when it is given to a charity. Grants generally cannot be used for specific fundraising events.
     
  • Large gifts may reduce your tax bracket to a point where it may be more advantageous to split them between multiple years. Work with your tax professional on potential multiyear tax planning.
     
  • As with any strategy involving taxes, there is a potential for laws and tax rates to change, making the strategy less effective than expected.

How Edward Jones can help

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Edward Jones Charitable Gift Fund can help you fulfill your charitable giving goals, reach out to an Edward Jones financial advisor for a discussion today.

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Zach Gildehaus, Client Needs Research

Zach Gildehaus joined Edward Jones in 2013. He is currently a senior analyst on the Client Needs Research (CNR) team where he focuses his research efforts on charitable giving and financial strategies for business owners.

Prior to CNR, he was a senior analyst in Investment Manager Research (IMR), where he spent more than six years. During his time in IMR, he covered both active and passive investment strategies across many asset classes.

Important Information:

This content should not be depended upon for other than broadly informational purposes. Edward Jones, its employees and financial advisors cannot provide tax or legal advice. You should consult your attorney or qualified tax advisor regarding your situation.