When David and Jennifer Risher launched #HalfMyDAF a few months after COVID-19 reached the U.S., nonprofits were facing an increased demand for services but a reduction in donations. In that moment, the Rishers saw an opportunity to encourage more donors to shift money directly to nonprofits during the crisis.

#HalfMyDAF challenges donors to unlock capital from their Donor-advised Funds (DAFs), a giving vehicle that allows donors to make donations, receive an immediate tax deduction, and make grant recommendations over time. With millions of dollars sitting in DAFs, the Rishers urged donors to take action at a time when nonprofits were facing unprecedented obstacles. #HalfMyDAF participants moved $8.6 million to more than 750 nonprofits in 2020.

This time, the Rishers are back with a goal of moving $20 million in 2021. In addition to the general matching fund of more than $1 million, the Rishers have joined forces with a few others to ensure greater impact.

“This year, we’ve decided to do it again, only earlier, and bigger,” David Risher said. “Thanks to our daughters and two other generous couples, we’re providing an additional $2 million in matching funds to nonprofits focused on some of the most important, pressing issues of our times: Racial justice, climate and environment, education in underserved communities, and reproductive health.”

To participate, donors need to commit to spending down half of their DAFs by Sept. 30 and nominate nonprofits to be eligible for a matching grant. If selected at random, their grants will again be matched up to $10,000, but there are also several matches available at the $50,000 and $100,000 level.

Giving Compass recently caught up with the Rishers to learn more about this year’s approach, the role their daughters are playing in #HalfMyDAF, and what they’ve learned along the way. The interview is edited for length and clarity.


Q: Last year, you noted that you didn't want to impose your values or favorite causes on donors who participated in #HalfMyDAF. Why did you decide to add the four matching pools with focus areas this year?

Our goal continues to be to inspire giving, no strings attached … but we’ve also come to realize that that with all the interest in #HalfMyDAF, we have the opportunity to shine light on a few areas that are particularly important right now. It tries to be a “yes and” approach — one that builds on the success of our first year and, we hope, motivates even more giving this year.

Our daughters were part of what got us to focus on certain areas. After hearing about #HalfMyDAF and being part of the back-end operation — our youngest was home from college and did a lot of the data entry, getting to know different nonprofits and learning about DAFs — they met together, talked with our financial advisor, and surprised us by joining #HalfMyDAF by adding to the giving pool. They each had a focus area in mind. Our oldest wants her money to go toward fighting racial inequality and our youngest wants to fight climate change and help save our environment.

All of this made us realize: Hold on, this next generation has real passion around certain areas. Let’s tap into that without taking away from the overall mission of inspiring giving anywhere.

Q: What did you learn from the first #HalfMyDAF effort?

The importance of community in giving. We’ve received really positive feedback from DAF donors who joined us, were excited to be part of the movement, and were thankful for the nudge to give. We also heard that #HalfMyDAF got them talking within their families about values and giving. We also saw great relationships starting to build between donors and nonprofits.

We were also really pleased to see how nonprofits joined in the journey. #HalfMyDAF gave them the opportunity to reach out to donors, tell their story, possibly get a donation, and then a matching donation from us.

Q: What are your goals for the 2021 #HalfMyDAF campaign?

Our main goal continues to be to inspire giving and encourage those who’ve already made philanthropic commitments to take the next step. The more you put in, the more you get out of it — both you and nonprofits. There aren’t that many true win-wins in life, but this is one of them.