Donor-advised funds have emerged as a popular vehicle for charitable giving, offering donors flexibility, tax advantages, and strategic philanthropic planning. However, to fully harness the potential of DAFs, organizations and individuals managing these funds must leverage cutting-edge technology solutions. A robust technology stack can facilitate seamless fund administration, personalized donor experiences, and data-driven decision-making.

The Tech Stack

Fund Management Platform:

Also often called “managed services”, fund management tools are a crucial component. They serve as the backbone for donor-advised funds, facilitating financial transactions, fund allocation, and grant distribution. This is a major decision and is likely to be the most expensive and difficult part of any DAF tech stack. While potentially complex and costly, selecting the right platform ensures operational efficiency and compliance with financial regulations.

  • Ren's position as a market leader in Fund Management or Managed Services was cemented by its acquisitions of Pinkaloo (2021) and Stellar Technologies (2023). The company provides a full suite of services enabling and supporting new account creation, contributions, grants, investments, funds disbursement, and even program support. RenPSG also goes above and beyond in providing education and training for DAF managers and providers with their annual DAF Summit full of relevant educational content.
  • The National Philanthropic Trust is a trusted name in Philanthropy with a long history of supporting individual DAFs and sponsoring industry research. The organization’s fund management tool is called NPT GivingPoint. The solution touts its ability to leverage NPT’s philanthropic experts, planning tools, and full administrative support as the organization takes on a fiduciary role.
  • Local Community Foundations often provide managed services with your funds likely sitting alongside the foundation’s own DAF accounts. While the efficiency and potential scale of these solutions will vary, the advantage that you get is a fund manager with deep and close ties to a local community. Those ties can manifest in benefits that range from local events to opportunities to partner with local charities and other local funds and charitable efforts. To explore offerings at your local community foundation reach out. The Council on Foundations maintains a community foundation locator that can act as a handy tool if you need help finding them.
  • In-house management is possible for the brave (or those with robust IT teams or a small number of funds and assets under management) the rapid development of tools like Stripe has made it possible to build a custom solution that can handle many basic tasks of fund management such as accepting multiple payments types, etc. when combined with other tools. Features such as Stripe Connect can also streamline the process of getting money to the charity by facilitating payments straight into their accounts and obviating the need for distributing checks. This can be a viable option but should be undertaken with great care and with the assistance of an experienced advisor or consultant, particularly in light of the current regulatory and compliance requirements and new rules now under consideration. To start what should be a thoughtful and patient journey in learning to accept and manage DAF funds leveraging Stripe start with exploring their documentation and potential integrations with other tools such as a CRM. You’ll also need to think about a fiscal sponsor relationship or charitable arm if you are a for-profit institution -

Donor Relationship Management

Central to maintaining and enhancing donor engagement, these platforms help in organizing donor information, tracking interactions, and personalizing communication strategies to build lasting relationships. In many ways, this will be the most tested, vetted, and mature segment of your tech stack. The two biggest “tech4good” providers are and Blackbaud. They and others have created CRM systems customized for the needs of donor management but, in many ways, inspired by learnings from customer relationship management tools that have become essential in private sector business development and sales.

  • is an incredibly powerful tool that can be customized for almost any need and integrated with almost any tool. actually existed for many years as a separate nonprofit entity closely connected with and with exclusive rights to adapt and sell Salesforce technologies to the social impact space (universities, nonprofits, and, for a time, corporate responsibility teams through Philanthropy Cloud.) Yet there have been grumblings within the community of nonprofit “trailblazers” who serve as devotees of Salesforce products, there has been talk of a declining investment by the organization in products focused on nonprofits. Indeed now organizationally lives internally within Salesforce Industries. Yet this has also allowed the organization to take advantage of shared resources and architecture with other Salesforce industry-focused solutions, which, in theory, could enable the company to build even more powerful tools for philanthropy. They also have some distinct advantages in building AI tools and offering support. These are all aspects of adopting Salesforce that you might wish to explore because while Salesforce offers some great incentives, such as free licenses for nonprofits, as your solution grows, it will undoubtedly become expensive and complex. Adopting this tool is truly diving into a relationship that, by the nature of the investment, will tend to be longer-term. 
  • Blackbaud is the stately giant in the nonprofit technology space. Founded in 1981 the company touts itself as the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good. Blackbaud serves over 35,000 customers with a variety of tools across multiple verticals. For donor relationship management the company actually has several solutions that can be helpful in donor relationship management depending upon the size and needs of your organization. These include tools like Blackbaud CRM, geared for larger enterprise-level nonprofits, and the perhaps more accessible Raisers EdgeNXT. Blackbaud has a variety of other tools that could be worth exploring depending on your goals, but the integrations between them are not always as strong as a tool like Salesforce might be.
  • HubSpot's easy setup, modern UI, and ease of use have become preferred by many smaller organizations over more legacy solutions. The platform provides a few integrations such as with Fundraise Up or New/Mode and multiple “hubs” such as a “marketing hub” to convert visitors into donors and run campaigns, a “sales hub” powering marketing automation and insights, and a CMS hub to manage your website in a way that’s seamlessly integrated with your relationship with donors. With HubSpot, you’re likely to get ease of use, good support, and innovation as they make strives to compete and gain market share with others. HubSpot also has a program for nonprofits offering 40% off for nonprofits that apply and quality.
  • Microsoft for Nonprofits offers a range of products designed specifically for nonprofit organizations, providing them with tools to improve efficiency, enhance collaboration, and drive impact. These include Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, and Azure services, tailored to meet the unique needs of the nonprofit sector. While these solutions offer powerful capabilities for collaboration, CRM, data analytics, and cloud computing, they may require technical expertise to deploy and manage effectively, potentially posing a challenge for smaller organizations without dedicated IT staff. Microsoft Philanthropies, through its Microsoft for Nonprofits program, offers technology solutions and grants to nonprofits. Its CRM solutions, part of the Dynamics 365 suite, are valued for integration with Microsoft products, though they may require more technical expertise to fully leverage.
  • DonorPerfect is widely recognized for its robust fundraising and donor management capabilities, offering extensive customization options to fit various nonprofit needs. While praised for its detailed reporting and integrations, some users find the interface outdated and the initial setup complex.
  • NeonOne provides a comprehensive CRM tailored for nonprofits, emphasizing donor engagement and fundraising efficiency. Users appreciate its all-in-one solution for managing donor data, event planning, and campaign tracking. However, some report challenges with data migration and navigating its extensive features, suggesting a steeper learning curve for new users.

Donor Education Software

These tools are designed to create meaningful interactions with donors, utilizing technology to engage, inform, and motivate your DAF holders through various channels and campaigns. Historically, much of this work was handled within and through CRM tools. But increasingly, there are solutions geared directly to providing data or software that can be leveraged to engage donors more deeply.

  • Giving Compass is building solutions aimed at revolutionizing donor education and engagement with its comprehensive approach to philanthropy education. In the context of DAF management, the company has made the argument that in today’s world customer service in the space of DAF management and philanthropy is donor education. The Giving Compass Donor Education Suite includes personalized learning paths and curated content designed to guide donors through their philanthropic journey and engage them deeply along the way in hopes of increasing their overall generosity and effectiveness as donors. 

Investment Management Software

This software aids in managing the investments associated with donor-advised funds. Many of these tools grew out of the still emergent field of impact investing. They provide services enabling your DAF donors to maximize returns for their invested DAF funds while also aligning those investments with the philanthropic goals and risk tolerance of donors.

  • CapShift is known for facilitating impact investments through DAFs and is praised for its user-friendly interface and diverse investment options. However, some users mention a learning curve in understanding impact investment nuances and navigating the platform's more advanced features.
  • ImpactAssets is celebrated for its commitment to generating social and environmental impact alongside financial return. Critics sometimes point to its limited liquidity options and higher fees compared to traditional investment platforms as potential drawbacks.

Compliance Management Software

Vital for ensuring that donor-advised funds operate within legal frameworks, these solutions help navigate the complex landscape of compliance, tax laws, and regulatory requirements.

  • ComplyAssistant provides comprehensive coverage of compliance needs, particularly its automated alerts and dashboard overviews. However, smaller organizations might find its extensive features more complex than necessary, impacting its ease of use.
  • Alyne is lauded for its streamlined approach to compliance and risk management, with a highly intuitive interface. Some feedback suggests that the platform's generic templates might require customization to fully align with the specific compliance needs of DAFs.
  • is a platform designed to streamline and simplify the donation process, making it easier for nonprofits to accept and manage contributions. By focusing on user experience and integration capabilities, aims to enhance donor engagement and increase fundraising efficiency. However, the platform's effectiveness can vary depending on the organization's size, tech-savviness, and specific needs, with potential challenges in adapting existing processes to a new system.

Donor Analysis Tools

Empowering organizations with insights and transparency, these tools analyze data to inform decision-making, track progress, and demonstrate impact to stakeholders. Much of the functionality you might expect in analyzing donor behaviors is actually increasingly embedded directly within CRM/donor relationship management tools. For proof, look no further than Tableau’s acquisition by Salesforce which has led to numerous integrations of that tool’s capabilities into Salesforce’s offerings. That said, there are some powerful tools that you can leverage to analyze donor trends and behavior.

  • Salesforce Tableau Software's powerful data visualization tools are widely praised for their ability to translate complex datasets into actionable insights. However, users often mention a steep learning curve and the need for a solid foundation in data analysis to leverage the platform fully.
  • Microsoft Power BI is recognized for its integration capabilities with other Microsoft products, offering a seamless experience for users within the Microsoft ecosystem. Some critiques focus on occasional performance issues with large data sets and the platform's cost for advanced features.
  • OpenAI Data Analysis offers innovative ways to extract insights from donor data, predict trends, and personalize engagement strategies. The cutting-edge AI capabilities promise to revolutionize data handling but require careful implementation to align with privacy standards and ethical considerations.

Integration and Scalability

Facilitating the seamless flow of information between different systems, these solutions ensure that technology stacks can grow and evolve with the organization, maintaining efficiency and adaptability. With the rapid development of AI, these tools are also incredibly invaluable. You could leverage the OpenAI API or similar APIs from Google and others to embed AI capabilities into everything from your CRM, your team’s Slack/teams, emails and email systems, and more. Imagine a channel in Slack where your advisors can query about a donor’s status without having to navigate to that donor’s record in your CRM. Or being able to queue up an email to a donor from your CRM and click a single button to trigger an AI that can read that donor’s record and craft first drafts of the outreach email that you or your team can just edit. These are time-saving tools that can unlock incredible functionality that may be far down the priority list on the roadmap of various other providers for tools in your tech stack. That is something that’s not likely to change as native LLM/AI capabilities are likely to advance faster than technology teams can keep up, meaning this can be a clear way to stay innovative, effective, and ahead of the curve in your work.

  • MuleSoft is a leading platform for building application networks and integrating disparate systems with ease. It's highly regarded for its robustness and flexibility in connecting applications, data, and devices, but its complexity and cost can be barriers for smaller organizations.
  • Zapier stands out for its user-friendly interface and vast integration capabilities, automating workflows between apps without requiring coding knowledge. While highly accessible, it may not support more complex or custom integration needs without workarounds.
  • Workato offers a powerful automation platform for integrating applications and automating workflows across organizations. It's known for its depth of integration capabilities and enterprise-grade security, though its comprehensive features come with a learning curve.
  • Make (formerly Integromat) provides a visual integration platform that enables users to connect apps and automate workflows through a straightforward, no-code interface. It's celebrated for its ease of use and flexibility, though it may lack some of the deeper customization options of more complex platforms.

The ultimate technology stack for donor-advised funds encompasses a multifaceted approach combining fund management platforms, donor engagement tools, investment management software, compliance solutions, data analytics, security measures, and seamless integration capabilities. By leveraging these technologies, organizations and individuals can streamline operations, enhance donor experiences, and maximize the impact of philanthropic contributions in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.