November 1st, 2015

Academics and Philanthropic Stakeholders Debate Donor Advised Funds

Your Community Foundation is keeping a pulse on current issues and trends among community foundations–one that continues to bubble, as mentioned in last month’s e-newsletter, is recent conversations on how donor advised funds (DAFs) are regulated. These conversations highlight concerns over a broader trend of the questioning of endowed philanthropy-which could lead to real policy threats from Capitol Hill down the road.

Boston College of Law School Forum on Philanthropy & the Public Good

On October 23rd, members of the Council on Foundation’s policy and legal team attended an academic conference hosted by the director of the Forum, Ray Madoff, entitled, “The Rise of Donor-Advised Funds: Should Congress Respond?”

A Congressional panel was asked what policies Congress might have in the works that would impact DAFs. Council staffers could not point to any imminent policy threats to DAFs, the conversation highlighted concerns over how much control DAF donors continue to exercise after the fund’s creation. This questioning of donors and the level of control they maintain after making a gift and receiving a donation embodies what the Council refers to as “skepticism about the individual.” 

The conference included two debates: should Congress further regulate DAFs, and if so, should they distinguish between commercial DAFs and DAFs managed by community foundations? These are the very questions raised by skeptics of donor advised funds. The “skepticism of institutions,” becomes a real threat in proposed policies such as a DAF payout or restrictions on when and how endowments must be spent. Yes, community foundations are very different than commercial DAFs. To learn more about the differences, please call or email us any time.