Philanthropists around the country are trying to make an outsize difference during the COVID-19 crisis with an initiative called #HalfMyDAF. The group, founded by Jennifer and David Risher, has banded together to offer matching challenge grants when others join them in committing to distribute at least half of the money in their Donor Advised Fund accounts to charities. The initiative spurred the distribution of $8.6 million in DAF distributions that were matched by $1.8 million in matching grants in 2020. So far $3.1 million is available in matching grants for 2021, but those funds will support the arts only if arts philanthropists step up to participate. Below is the story of one arts organization that benefitted from the initiative in 2020. Could this growing movement do even more for the arts in 2021?

What is a Donor Advised Fund?
In lay terms, a DAF is sort of like a bank account that you must use for charitable giving. You set up your DAF with a financial firm or with your local community foundation and pay money into it. You can immediately take a tax deduction for that payment, and the money sits in your DAF account until you instruct the DAF to give it to a 501c3 charity (this is the only thing you can do with the money: save it or give it to charity, no withdrawals). Unlike a foundation, a DAF has no legal requirement to pay out a certain amount per year. Funds stay in the DAF until the donor indicates what charity the money should go to.

What is #HalfMyDAF?
Seeing substantial, acute need in the nonprofit sector in 2020, the philanthropists behind #HalfMyDAF set out to create an incentive for their peers to distribute a substantial amount from their DAF accounts immediately instead of waiting to disburse funds in a future year. To do that, they committed not only to distributing at least half the funds in their own DAF accounts, but to offering $1.8 million as challenge grants to match grants from any additional donors who pledged to join them in distributing half their DAF funds. It worked. But the grants and the match go only to charities selected by the DAF donors who are participating, and we noticed there were only a few arts organizations on the list of recipients. One of them was Ashland New Plays Festival.

Read the full article about donor-advised funds by Ms. Christina Ritchie at ARTS Blog.