Unrestricted giving at Vanguard Charitable DAF has grown by 150% over the past five years, now representing more than half the dollars granted annually

Apr 26, 2023

Malvern, Pa., April 26, 2023 – Vanguard Charitable, a leading nonprofit and sponsor of donor-advised funds (DAFs), today released Why Giving Matters: Donors give more effectively over time with a donor-advised, a report that includes survey results of over 1,500 Vanguard Charitable donors and 440 nonprofit organizations, along with a decade’s worth of data insight into donor giving behavior.


The report found high levels of generosity among all DAF donors and also showed that the longer donors give with a DAF, the more consistently and more generously they give. The report also revealed that unrestricted granting—defined as a grant given to a nonprofit that can be used for any purpose as directed by the nonprofit—has grown by 150% over the past five years at Vanguard Charitable and more than 580% over the past decade. Unrestricted gifts accounted for more than 50% of total dollars granted and 70% of individual grants issued as unrestricted in 2022.


“Unrestricted giving is a powerful way to give, and Vanguard Charitable continues to provide resources and tools to enable this type of granting to thousands of nonprofits each year,” said Rebecca Moffett, president of Vanguard Charitable.


Not only does unrestricted giving afford charities the flexibility they need to make spending decisions based on current conditions, but it also demonstrates our trust as funders in the charity’s ability to make the right call on how to allocate funds to advance their mission. This new report illustrates how our partnership with donors and nonprofits has been effective in increasing unrestricted granting and, importantly, highlights opportunities to scale up unrestricted giving further to make a greater impact.” 


Unrestricted granting is a top nonprofit priority 


In the study, surveyed nonprofits identified flexible, unrestricted granting as a top priority in helping alleviate more pressing needs. At Vanguard Charitable, many grantee organizations are receiving the funds to do just that. Unrestricted granting among all Vanguard Charitable donors has increased over the past 10 years.

“Unrestricted funds finance important programs for the most vulnerable populations in regions that do not attract sufficient funds,” said an international humanitarian charity supported by Vanguard Charitable donors.

Informed by the high rate of unrestricted grants and donor motivation, the report offers insight into how nonprofits might encourage increased unrestricted funding. In cases when donors do the reverse and restrict giving, they often reported doing so in collaboration with their grantee recipients. Among Vanguard Charitable donors who restrict grants, three in five reported doing so because they believe they are following the nonprofits’ lead.  


Donor motivation behind restricted granting:


  • 44% of surveyed donors cited responding to a fundraising appeal for a specific purpose.
  • 26% of surveyed donors said the charity provides many services and they were passionate about one in particular.
  • 17% of surveyed donors cited personal conversations with a charity and a joint agreement on where to direct the funds.
  • 9% of surveyed donors cited “other.”


Opportunity for nonprofits to align communication strategies with fundraising goals


In general, Vanguard Charitable encourages trust-based philanthropy as an important giving practice. Donors may, however, receive a different message from the nonprofits that they support, especially if solicitations feature a specific fundraising appeal. Personal conversations with donors may offer another opportunity for grantees to emphasize the importance of unrestricted giving, a message that aligns with Vanguard Charitable’s guidance to its donors. More broadly, the survey’s findings may offer incentive for nonprofits to review their communication and outreach practices to potentially increase the amount of unrestricted grants they receive. 


As a healthcare nonprofit noted, “Having dollars that are flexible in purpose is incredibly helpful in our ability to react to new challenges and opportunities.”


To access the full Why Giving Matters 2023 report and learn more about effective philanthropy, donor-advised funds, and how to maximize your charitable impact, please visit www.vanguardcharitable.org/why-giving-matters-2023.  


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 $15 billion to charity. More information is available at vanguardcharitable.org.




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.


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