What questions should an individual donor, couple or family ask themselves before opening a donor-advised fund?
Before opening a DAF, families should reflect on and talk about their values and goals for their philanthropy—individually, and as a family—and their specific needs for what the vehicle should deliver. Here is a list of questions to start a dialogue among family members, perhaps with the assistance of a philanthropic advisor associated with the DAF sponsor of your choice:
History of Giving
- What vehicles have we used for our charitable giving?
- At what times throughout the year have we typically given, and why?
- What motivates our giving? What issues do we care about or find concerning?
- What have we given to in the past?
- Do we have a close connection to a particular location or community?
Goals for Giving
- What’s the change we would like to see in our community or chosen cause?
- What specific goals do we wish to achieve with our philanthropy?
- What values or legacy do we wish to impart to our children and grandchildren?
- How do we wish to involve our children and/or grandchildren in philanthropy?
- How will we encourage their participation and make sure they feel their voices are heard?
Vehicles for Giving
- What philanthropy vehicles have we explored, and how?
- What do we understand are the benefits of donor-advised funds over other vehicles?
- What are our biggest concerns when it comes to choosing a vehicle (i.e., a more formalized structure for our philanthropy)?
- How much time do we have or want to dedicate to our philanthropy?
- What do we value most in terms of our philanthropy or philanthropic vehicle? Examples include:
- Deep long-term engagement of the family?
- Perpetuity of the philanthropic vehicle?
- Working together to develop a shared philanthropic strategy and make grants decisions that reflect that strategy?
- To train the next generation about wealth and philanthropy?
- Ease and convenience?
- Flexibility in terms of payout and assets donated?
- Ultimate control of the assets?
- Anonymity versus openness?
- Low administrative costs?
- To be able to access and manage grants online?
- Access to grantmaking support and local expertise?
- To meet a specific goal (community-centric giving, international giving, or giving in another geographic area)?
- To network and/or partner with other donors or funders?
- Other values or needs?
- What will happen to our philanthropic vehicle (e.g., donor-advised fund, family foundation) when I/we pass away?
- How many generations do we wish the philanthropic vehicle to last, and why?
- What do we imagine for the future of the family’s philanthropy?
- What guidelines, letters of philanthropic intent, and/or legacy videos will we leave for future generations?
Next in the DAF Guide: What Questions Should Donors Ask Their Advisors when Considering Setting Up a Donor Advised Fund?