New study: With donor-advised funds, unexpected giving leads donors to expand their philanthropy

Apr 17, 2024

Malvern, Pa., April 17, 2024 – Vanguard Charitable, a leading nonprofit and sponsor of donor-advised funds (DAFs), today released a new edition of Why Giving Matters: Responsive granting with donor-advised funds spurs greater total giving, a report that includes more than a decade’s worth of insight into donor giving from over 32,000 Vanguard Charitable DAF accounts as well as donor survey responses on giving sentiments and behavior. 


The study reveals a continued increase in support from all Vanguard Charitable donors, specifically around long-term, expected giving and responsive, unexpected giving. Results suggest donors’ unanticipated, responsive giving to events like natural disasters and humanitarian crises also causes their expected giving to increase as well, resulting in a boost to their total giving.


Vanguard Charitable donors who use their Vanguard Charitable DAF for unexpected grants gave 39% more than those who use their DAF only for expected, ongoing giving. The research indicates that a donor’s unexpected granting also encourages more expected granting, with a 24% increase in prioritized, ongoing giving from their Vanguard Charitable DAF.


"It’s so inspiring to see our donors’ generosity in supporting the causes and charities they care about most,” said Rebecca Moffett, president of Vanguard Charitable. “This year’s Why Giving Matters report underscores the essential role DAFs play in facilitating not only long-term planned giving, but unexpected giving as well. That flexibility, combined with our quality investments and low-fee structure, enables more dollars go to nonprofits in need.”


The report details how by using a DAF, Vanguard Charitable donors can be agile in the way they fulfill their philanthropic goals. Expected giving serves as the true lifeblood for nonprofits. In diversifying to include unexpected giving, donors can provide resources to respond quickly and efficiently during emergent events. The result of this multi-faceted approach is an increase in both giving types and total giving overall.


“There are always core charities we give to but enough is left over to be flexible with unexpected needs,” said one Vanguard Charitable donor. “If something doesn’t pop up, we just give a bit more to our regular charities.”


Additional Survey Findings


  • More than three-quarters of individuals who give unexpectedly say their unexpected giving increases their total giving, rather than displacing the giving they’d already planned to do.
  • 46% of nonprofits receiving an unexpected grant from Vanguard Charitable receive a second grant from the same donor in the future.
  • Over 72% of donors identified two or more types of events as inspiring their unexpected giving, suggesting donors respond to a variety of prompts for giving.
  • Over the last ten years, the Vanguard Charitable donors’ expected giving has grown 17% per year, while unexpected giving has grown 24% per year.


“At World Central Kitchen, we cherish the invaluable contributions of both our expected and unexpected donors. Expected giving is the backbone to sustaining our ongoing operations and enables WCK to respond with the “urgency of now” in the wake of a disaster,” said Tunde Wackman, Chief Development Officer, at World Central Kitchen. “In times of crisis, such as natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies, unexpected giving becomes a lifeline for our ability to scale activations, providing immediate relief and support where it is needed most. Together, these forms of giving form a dynamic synergy that fuels our mission, enabling us to deliver nourishment, comfort, and hope to communities facing hardships.”


To access the exclusive Why Giving Matters 2024 report and learn more about effective philanthropy, donor-advised funds, and how to maximize your charitable impact, please visit  


About Vanguard Charitable
Vanguard Charitable is a leading U.S. nonprofit organization that fulfills its mission to increase philanthropic giving by administering a donor-advised fund—a tax-effective way to consolidate, accrue, and grant assets to charity. Since it was founded by Vanguard1 in 1997 as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, Vanguard Charitable has granted more than $18 billion to charity. More information is available at



Vanguard Charitable: 
Crystal Fountain




Published Date

1 Although Vanguard provides certain investment management and administrative services to Vanguard Charitable pursuant to a service agreement, Vanguard Charitable is not a program or activity of Vanguard. A majority of Vanguard Charitable’ s trustees are independent of Vanguard.


Session timed out

For security reasons, you have been automatically logged out. To login, please click close and sign into your account.

Log out successful

This account is frozen. Contact us at
Request for user ID submitted

Your request was successfully submitted.Your user ID will be sent to the email address we have on file for you. Please contact us if you do not receive your user ID.
There are no open accounts associated with this User ID. Please contact us at
Online access to your account is currently disabled. Please contact us at to resolve this matter.

Log out successful

Login with your new User ID.

Log out successful

Login to access your account.
You do not currently have valid roles for any accounts. Please contact us at

A technical error has occurred

In order to maintain information security, your log-in request was canceled or your previous session ended.
Don't worry. You can log back in at any time.


Technical error. Please try again.

Log out successful

Login to update your phone number.

Technical error

You have reached a technical error and this session is not currently available.
Your email address was successfully verified.
Your account has been unblocked. Click login to access your account.

It’s not you. It’s us!

We are experiencing a technical error and we’re working on it. Please try again later.

You are unauthorized to access this page.


Maintenance fee may be applied

Accounts having a balance below $25,000 may be subject to an annual maintenance fee of $250.


You are eligible for special rates

Our premier clients enjoy reduced pricing to further maximize their impact.

Our representatives are happy to guide you through.

No, take me back


Click OK to cancel your enrollment.

Click Cancel to continue opening your account.