DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > DePaul professor’s wide-ranging study on donor-advised funds lands new grant
By Russell Dorn /
January 11, 2023 /
Posted in: CAMPUS AND COMMUNITY /
The Donor Advised Fund Research Collaborative — co-founded by DePaul Assistant Professor Danielle Vance-McMullen — is set to launch the most wide-ranging research project on donor-advised funds to date.
The study will look at data from U.S. organizations that sponsor such funds, including community foundations, national sponsors and religious affiliates. The aim is to increase public understanding of how individuals and households use donor-advised funds, how different donor groups, such as millennials or high-net-worth donors, use them and how changes in the giving environment affect fund giving. It builds on a
2022 study by Vance-McMullen and the DAFRC that included account-level data from 21 donor-advised fund sponsor organizations across the country. A $750,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the work.
“The Gates Foundation has really recognized and lifted up the role of data in the nonprofit sector over the years, and we are grateful for their support of this data-oriented work,” says Vance-McMullen, an assistant professor in the School of Public Service housed in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. “This study is vital because donor-advised funds have grown rapidly over the past decade and play an important role in individual philanthropy in the United States, yet we have such limited data about them."
Donor-advised funds are the fastest-growing vehicle for U.S. philanthropy and are changing the way that high-net-worth Americans give to charity. In 2020, about 10.1% of all giving in the United States, or $48 billion, went to such funds, according to the National Philanthropic Trust. Philanthropic leaders and policymakers need reliable empirical data on donor-advised funds to maximize the benefit to nonprofits and society.
“We hope that this study will tell us more about how donors use DAFs, what their giving strategies are, and how DAF-sponsoring organizations, such as community foundations, are supporting increased DAF giving,” says Vance-McMullen.
Joining Vance-McMullen in conducting the new study is Dan Heist, assistant professor of public administration and nonprofit management in the Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at Brigham Young University; Jeff Williams, director of the Community Data and Research Lab at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University; and Brittany Kienker, principal and owner of Kienker Consulting LLC. The group is working in partnership with the GivingTuesday Data Commons.
Read more about the new study at
The NonProfit Times.