Whether you’re a DAF expert or a newbie, we’ve got some tips to help you make the most out of this often-underutilized channel of funds during the busy giving season. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: giving season. We’re betting that many non-profits haven’t spent enough time thinking about donor-advised funds (DAFs) or how to integrate and incorporate them into their end-of-year (EOY) digital program. But don’t worry — we’re here to help you catch up fast.

What’s a DAF, you say? 

We’ll start from the top: DAFs represent a huge opportunity to win some pretty substantial mid-tier and major gifts. And there’s some significant revenue waiting for you: over $110 billion is wrapped up in them, according to The Agitator

In short, a donor-advised fund is a giving vehicle that allows donors to:

  1. First, donate an asset (like cash or stock) to a fund 
  2. Next, receive an immediate tax deduction
  3. And (most importantly for you) recommend where and when grants to qualified charities are sent 

While the recommendation of where the grants go is only a recommendation, in reality, funds are distributed pretty much in line with donor intent. Which all sounds simple, right? Unfortunately not. 

While the donor in many cases is influencing and initiating the gift, the check comes from the DAF and doesn’t always contain information about the donor. That means that tying a donation from a DAF back to an individual donor can be hard, if not impossible. Without knowing who gave you what, or that the donor even exists, it’s difficult to build a program — because you have limited visibility into the details of the gift. 

The challenge we face is one of audience: How can we use all of our assets to identify likely DAF donors, and inspire them to donate to you more frequently?

Where should you start? 

If you’re a non-profit, hopefully, you’ve already built DAFs into your fundraising program. If this is all new, then you’re in the right place. We’ll help you get started. Not only do DAFs represent a tremendous amount of revenue today, but it’s also likely that their importance will only grow over time. And while building a program doesn’t happen overnight, there are some concrete steps you can take before EOY to get your DAF journey started.  

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Step one: Lay the foundations

Build a DAF page for your non-profit, spend money on search engine marketing (SEM) to promote it, and build a cookie pool of DAF-interested people. 

Given that most people have never heard of a DAF, it’s fair to assume that those who have will be highly qualified donor leads. Organizations interested in leveraging DAFs should be willing to invest a significant amount in reaching these people — using the DAF page on your website to build a unique DAF cookie pool. Here are just a few ways to reach them:

  • Buy pre-roll ads that show your brand message. 
  • Buy display media showing your impact. 
  • Retarget your Facebook audience with donation asks and offers when you have them. 
  • Run surveys and traditional list-building campaigns that will help you identify these people and fold them into a major giving officer’s portfolio. 

Some of our clients get thousands of visits to their DAF pages each year — and each represents an opportunity to build a relationship with a person of considerable capacity. 

Step two: Make your team accessible

Make it easy for DAF donors to reach you. We all know the value of human interaction in winning trust and soliciting significant gifts. So when you design your DAF page, keep these tips in mind: 

  1. Work with your major giving teams to create the content that best resonates with your target audience. 
  2. Creatively solicit first-party data from this crucial DAF audience. For example, you could offer a simple email signup to receive a call from a major gift officer. You could solicit questions about your work directly through an “ask us anything” sign up form or email. You could have a whitepaper behind an email gate. Regardless of which tactic you choose, the key is to prove your value to your audience and make it easy for them to form a relationship with you. 

Step three: Search your file for donors with capacity.

We hope that you’re applying regular wealth screens to your file. If you aren’t you are leaving significant funds on the table and failing to create sufficient pipelines into some of your highest-value programs. We’ve developed some great cost-effective partnerships with data firms and are happy to point you in the right direction if you get in touch. 

Step four: Find the right people.

Announce your DAF option to your prospects, mid-tier, and major donor programs.

This one sounds a little obvious but once you’ve identified a pool of people who have the capacity to support a DAF, talk to them about it. 

  • Ask them if they’ve given to you through a DAF before. 
  • Add DAF-based giving into your asks. 
  • Drop them into a P.S. in email. 
  • Retarget this audience in a similar way that you are speaking to potential supporters in step one. 

The good news is that this should represent a minimal increase in your workload. This is a great example of when conditional content will help provide a significant value add without having to add a new segment. 

Final thoughts: 

Understanding and capitalizing on the opportunities DAFs present is an important step forward for your program. But you may need to become relaxed about ambiguity and uncertainty as you can’t fully attribute your investment to your outcomes. But we believe that the risk is well worth the long-term value a DAF-friendly program represents.

The best part? You can start building that cookie pool right now. You probably don’t even need board approval. All you need is a couple of hours to build a page and some retargeting code that will grow your targeting capacity over time. So don’t wait — we challenge you to make the most of this giving season and take your first DAF steps before the year closes!

We’re happy to discuss other opportunities to capitalize on DAFs. Send us a note!