Donor-Advised Fund Impact Story: Giving Internationally through Two DAFs

Sasha Rabsey’s passion for philanthropy was born in rural Africa. “My at-the-time 17-year-old daughter and I went to Ghana for a volunteer experience, and it was nothing like we expected. The staff of the organization disappeared for a week and we were left to care for 15 kids, six of whom were HIV positive. We had no healthcare experience and there were no protocols in place. It was a pivotal experience that opened my eyes to the pitfalls of development and philanthropy."

This experience spurred her interest in wanting to become a funder. Today, Rabsey is the founder, director, and a philanthropic advisor with the HOW Fund, a donor advised fund she established more than a decade ago through the Tides Foundation in San Francisco. Through this fund, Rabsey supports grassroots leaders who recognize the strength, courage, and capacity of women and girls globally, and who address a constellation of their needs through direct-service projects.

“Like so many women, I wanted to engage in the grantmaking process, to do more than simply hand over a check. I cared about meeting the people I was giving grants to, listening deeply, and learning from them,” she says. “When I became interested in international grantmaking, the DAF I chose had the lowest cost and most ease in getting global grants out quickly and efficiently.”

To find the right DAF for her, Rabsey hired a philanthropic consultant to help her. “It was the best thing I could have done. I needed and wanted hand holding, and we both learned together through the process. She introduced me to a number of DAFs that aligned with my values, and helped me hone my focus and create a point of view. She went with me on site visits, and I met the people and organizations I wanted to partner with. It was satisfying. I experienced so much joy making those first grants.”

“I was able to spend my time learning about issues, going on site visits, traveling and focusing on women and girls. Rather than hire a lawyer and attorney and managing a board of directors, with a DAF, I have a host organization that does all the back work for me.”

Today, the HOW Fund does a lot of long-term grantmaking. “We are building deep relationships and looking at change not in terms of grant volume, but in terms of impact.”

In addition to her DAF at the Tides Foundation, Rabsey recently opened a second DAF at a commercial gift fund for the convenience of investing support. “They offer impact investing, and their options for investing in general are endless. I can dial my risk in—it’s all online, and it’s so simple,” she says. “It’s a one-stop shop for managing my investments and my giving.”

To her clients and philanthropy colleagues, Rabsey recommends using different DAFs—at different host organizations—to meet different goals.

“Start with one of the bigger funds to get money out the door. It helps to first get the feeling of what it is to give money away, and get a couple of home runs,” she says. “Through the experience of giving, you will find what matters to you—whether that’s investing in impact, passion for a particular cause, or bringing your family together—whatever will bring you joy. Then open a DAF at a host organization that aligns with your values, where you will meet others, and gain the more in-depth grantmaking support you need,” she says. “You may pay more for it, but it will likely allow you to go deeper.”


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