Donor Advised Funds – Part Three

October 10, 2022

Ensure correct coding

As with all your prospects, volunteers, donors and supporters, the key to increased giving and granting from DAF accounts is building relationships with them. For this partnership to have context and meaning – and to ensure your messaging is appropriate and meaningful – your fundraising database must be coded correctly.

For example, an individual who has made DAF grants to your organization for the past two years but who has also partnered with you as a volunteer or steady donor for 30, should be recognized and acknowledged for their 30 years of commitment and dedication. How you think about, prioritize and talk with someone with three decades of intimate experience with your organization is far different than how you would communicate with a two-year donor.

Additionally, how your donors are coded is key to how they are thanked. Unlike your typical donor, a DAF grantor does not need a tax receipt from your organization, nor does the fund sponsor – and providing one when not needed is not only an extra burden for your staff but can also cause confusion for the grantor and fund sponsor. However, your DAF grantor does deserve a personal thank you note that conveys the impact their gift has made and what recurring or continued granting can accomplish.

Did you know?

“Pandemic giving led to a 31 percent spike in DAF granting in 2020, equating to almost 13 percent of individual giving. When a donor puts money into a DAF it is irrevocable and can’t be used for anything other than a charitable donation. So in essence they have created a ready reserve for gifting throughout the year and especially if they are specifically motivated to give when an emergency or disaster occurs ..”

– Tammy Nigus, Senior Strategic Communications Director, Summit Marketing

4. Integrate your message

Summit Marketing has developed a specialized series of communications to help nonprofits acquire, identify and cultivate DAF donors, align with their desires and build long-term relationships. For more information, visit

As DAFs grow in popularity – and as the wealth of funds available to for grants continues to increase – new strategies must be developed across all possible communications channels to directly address DAF giving. Let’s look at the most common:

Direct Mail: Use DAF-focused letters to educate prospective and current donors about the benefits of DAFs and encourage those who already have accounts to make recurring grants. Consider tweaking the remits of already established campaigns to allow donors to indicate their pledge to grant through their DAF or to simply self-identify as a DAF donor so they can be added to the proper communications track.

Postcards: Send throughout the year to remind donors of the good their grants can and will accomplish and why your organization is the right one to achieve your goals.

Inserts, articles and print ads: These can be included in specific appeals, newsletters and publications, targeting donors with existing DAFs or those with potential to establish one.

Email and digital: Don’t leave anyone out. It’s important to reach donors where they are, through their preferred channel of communication. For example, add a DAF page link in your email ask and set up an email retargeting campaign from your DAF landing page. Include organic social media posts throughout the yar on the benefits to giving through DAFs. You might even consider combining your direct mail and digital efforts by running PI targeted ads.

But don’t stop there. Be creative and strategic in your efforts to reach your audience with the benefits of DAFs for donors themselves and for your organization.

5. Practice “intentional attention”

The concept of “intentional attention” means understanding the needs and aspirations of each donor and responding appropriately through all interactions with that individual. Your goal is to cultivate that relationship so that it becomes a transformational experience for the donor and your organization.

DAF grantors have already set themselves apart from other donors with their choice of that giving tool. Perhaps they prefer the convenience of the process – or even the option for anonymity. Or maybe they’re even giving through their DAF s well as in response to direct mail appeals, email solicitations and other communication channels. It’s important to recognize and acknowledge their special commitment to your organization, and for these donors it starts with the thank you.

Because DAF grants are often received unsolicited, the thank you signals the beginning of the conversation, not the end of the transaction. In addition to expressing deep gratitude, this note

should seed the thought of what an additional or recurring grant could accomplish, not only in terms of meeting your organizational needs, but also in fulfilling the donor’s desire to respond to those in need, end suffering, support special programs and make a positive impact on their community and the world.

“Intentional attention” also means identifying donors who have the potential to create a DAF – or to make their first grant to your organization – and sharing with them how this form of giving can help them achieve the transformational experience they’re longing for.

Unlocking the DAF vault: the right combination

3. Know your audience … and speak to them appropriately

4. Make it easy for donors to give through DAFs

5. Ensure correct coding

6. Integrate your message

7. Practice “intentional attention”

Now that you’ve unlocked the DAF vault … ensure your success.

Educate everyone in your organization on how to respond if a donor inquires about making a DAF gift. Make sure you understand all IRS rules so you can advise donors accurately. And begin building and stewarding relationships with the many fund sponsors – they can help direct grants to your nonprofit.

Over 30 years of success in sales, multi-channel development and innovative fundraising have earned Summit Marketing a reputation as one of the nation’s most effective integrated direct-response marketing agencies. We product strategies and tactics that inform, engage, inspire and move people to action.