Total charitable impact


Celebrating 20 years of giving and impact

December 7, 2017


By Jane Greenfield


Twenty years ago today, responding to direct requests from philanthropic individuals, Vanguard Charitable opened its doors. Under the guidance of then Chairman and CEO of Vanguard Group, Jack Brennan, we set out to accomplish one simple goal: Apply the Vanguard values of low cost, disciplined investing, along with a high level of customer service, to the rapidly growing donor-advised fund model.  That first year we served just 84 accounts and issued 11 grants to charity. Now, 20 years later, Vanguard Charitable hosts nearly 14,000 accounts and has granted more than $7 billion to charities across the globe.


The late-1990s were a renaissance for donor-advised funds, and by offering a best-in-class product, Vanguard Charitable took off. Looking back, the journey thus far has been nothing short of extraordinary. Our donors have granted more than 600,000 times since our first day, and they aren’t slowing down any time soon. Our low-cost, high-performing investments have had a robust impact, allowing donors to accrue an additional $2.2 billion for charity. In fact, this year we were named the 8th largest grantmaker in the US, and we are thrilled by your accomplishments.


In our recently published annual report we had a chance to share some of your voices and your reasons for giving. The powerful stories resonated with me and underscored the tremendous responsibility we have as an organization to continue pushing forward and evolving to meet our donors’ needs. The stories were a reminder to both me and the entire Vanguard Charitable team that the service we offer truly helps you make a difference.


Earlier this year, I discussed our 20-year milestone and reflected on two decades of impact.  In that blog, I challenged you, our donors, with one question: What can you do differently this year to help you maximize your philanthropic impact? The responses and results were as varied as our donors themselves:


  • You shared new and revitalized efforts to include your kids in your philanthropic giving by getting them involved in the granting decisions you were making each year. You recognize that the more involved your kids are with your donor-advised fund, the more confident they will be in carrying on your giving legacy beyond your own lifetime.
  • You showed us, this year in particular, that though you plan strategically, you remain agile and flexible in the face of great need, utilizing your accounts to support disaster relief in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and California. In the late summer and fall alone, you sent over 2,800 grants totaling more than $15 million, a testament to the value of having charitable assets readily available to fund the organizations that are making a difference on the ground.

  • And when considering how you may approach giving differently, many of you told us that you are engaged philanthropists with well-thought-through giving strategies, and that you would stay the course and execute on your charitable plans. We recognize the value of making and keeping to a plan and applaud you for it.


We are humbled every day to have the opportunity to work with such passionate, focused, and strategic donors.


Much like we challenged you with the question above, we also challenged ourselves: What will we do this year to help our donors as they give? Because we understand that donors place a high value on transparency, we teamed up this fall with GuideStar, a leading nonprofit research organization, to deliver the GuideStar National Nonprofit Directory. This tool, free of charge for our donors and embedded directly in the granting process, allows you to find charities of interest with the help of 12 sophisticated search filters, then research and save your favorites. As the first donor-advised fund to offer this tool, we hope to help our donors continue leading the philanthropic community, engaging with organizations in new ways, and focusing grantmaking to ensure the greatest charitable impact. 


We appreciate you for all you do in support of charities around the country and beyond, and look forward to continuing to work with you in the years to come.  We appreciate the role that you have allowed us to play in your philanthropic giving, and stand ready to continue challenging ourselves to help you accomplish your important goals.  I can’t wait to see what we achieve together in the next 20 years!

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