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  • Writer's pictureDrew Schneider

AFP Icon Conference Recap - is 2024 the year of DAFs?

The Association of Fundraising Professionals ICON conference is the largest nonprofit gathering in the world and this year there were 3 letters that seemed to be everywhere D, A & F.

Chariot sponsored AFP Icon for the second year in a row, with our Head of Strategy, Mitch Stein, and our Head of Partnerships, Elon Packin, in attendance. This year included lots of discussion on donor psychology, DEI, AI and - of course - Donor Advised Funds.

In addition to a full 75 minute session on DAFs hosted by Dan Heist from Brigham Young University and Jeremy Wells from The Saint Paul & Minnesota Community Foundation, reviewing the latest groundbreaking research from the DAF Research Collaborative, fundraisers were hearing and asking about DAFs at sessions across the busy 3-day schedule in Toronto.

Here are our top 5 takeaways from hundreds of conversations in Toronto on the state of nonprofit fundraising & DAFs:

1. The vast majority of nonprofit fundraisers don’t know that there’s an easy way for donors to use their DAF directly in their donation forms with DAFpay.

They are asking questions about how to find more DAF donors or reduce the headaches related to DAFs, and often receiving very unsatisfying answers like “just put in more work reaching out to donors.” Our hope is that by next year’s conference in Seattle, most people will know that there’s an actionable, helpful answer to those questions - DAFpay! See it in action here.


2. Fundraisers have a lot of feelings to share about DAFs! 

We started every conversation at our booth asking people “are you familiar with Donor Advised Funds?” and we received many eye rolls, heavy sighs and audible “UGHs” in return. Whenever people are holding onto that much frustration and emotion, you first have to provide space to let it out. We encourage everyone to share their grievances with DAFs - and then let’s talk about solutions. The biggest issues we heard were:

  • A macro frustration with how much money is sitting in DAFs - why is there $230 billion parked in Donor Advised Fund accounts that already generated a tax write off for the donor, but is not yet supporting critical, urgent missions like ours?

  • There is rarely any useful identifying information about a DAF donor received by an organization when they get a gift. Even DAF gifts that don’t come fully anonymous often only come with a fund name or mailing address that still leaves fundraisers devoting countless hours digging up answers to “who made this gift”? It results in poor stewardship and frustration from donors as well. 

  • Many fundraisers, particularly at arts and culture institutions like museums or theaters, are vexed by how often uninformed donors want to misuse their DAF (for event tickets, tables, etc.) and pressure fundraisers to break the rules. 


3. People are still brimming with questions about what Donor Advised Funds are and how they work.

In the session dedicated to DAFs, every seat was filled, every spot on the floor, in the aisles and along the back of the room was taken, and people were lined up out the door craning their necks to see the presentation! If you still need a DAFs 101, check out our primer.


4. The value of fully integrated DAF gifts for different types of fundraising roles are becoming much clearer. Major Gift Officers, Peer to Peer Fundraisers, and Individual Giving Marketers can all take advantage.

Major Gift Officers:

Major gift officers are seeing a rapidly growing percentage of their portfolio choosing to give from their Donor Advised Fund. However, since those gifts have historically been made through the donor’s DAF platform, the MGO has no idea when or if the gift is submitted, and is often waiting weeks or months for confirmation from their finance department that a gift was received. In the interim they’ll often have awkward and frustrating follow ups with those major gift donors. 

DAFpay enables 3-click conversion for those donors that want to give with their DAF, psychological nudges to increase DAF giving, and an immediate stewardship loop and no unwanted touchpoints trying to “find” a DAF gift.

See this use case of DAFpay in action on DAF-specific pages from The Michael J. Fox Foundation and Susan G. Komen.

Peer to Peer & Event Fundraisers:

P2P and event fundraising are often the most effective way to expand a nonprofit’s audience by tapping current supporters to bring their personal networks to the organization. Since it might be the first time many people make a gift to your nonprofit, they’re likely to make a smaller gift than their real capacity - and do it in the easiest way possible, which historically has been a credit card. 

But now with DAFpay, these supporters can easily use their DAF in their first interaction with your organization - likely making a significantly larger gift and providing a signal that they are a high potential donor that should be stewarded appropriately.

Learn more about maximizing DAF giving in the peer-to-peer setting and see DAFpay in action with Pan-Mass Challenge and March for Babies

Individual & Digital Fundraisers:

For most donors that fall into the general annual giving or individual giving list, they are making smaller dollar gifts on your donation form with their credit card, paypal or venmo. By providing them an easy DAFpay option on your main donate form at checkout, you give your current supporters the easiest way to identify themselves as DAF donors - without needing to ask!

Every nonprofit wants to know how they can “find more DAF donors,” and the best answer is that you probably already have many in your donor file - just give them an easy way to use their DAF with DAFpay. There’s a high likelihood that those first-time DAF donors are strong prospects for your major gifts team to start cultivating. 

Learn more about who a DAF donor is and see the DAFpay checkout option on a main donate form with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Central Park Conservancy


5. There’s so much potential for further collaboration between vendors to better serve nonprofit DAF needs 

Everyone is trying to get up to speed on DAFs quickly, including all of the software and service providers to nonprofits. There were dozens of these companies sponsoring or attending AFP this year and the potential to collectively drive more giving from DAFs faster couldn’t be clearer.

We already partner with many of the companies there - like Blackbaud (who included Chariot in their 2024 Social Good Startup Program), DonorDrive, and Gravyty  - and are working with many more to bring integrations live in 2024 (See all of our integration partners here). The more ubiquitous DAFpay can be in every donation experience, the more that DAF donors will begin to use their Donor Advised Fund like the charitable wallet it’s meant to be. 

We don’t want to hear about any more DAF donors who “forgot about their DAF” or “didn’t know they could support your organization.” DAF giving needs to be visible and easy to do everywhere that a donor can give online - and that dream is getting closer to reality every day.


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