Tubs, tanks, and towers: Donor strategies for donor-advised funds giving

H. Daniel Heist, Benjamin F. Cummings, Megan M. Farwell, Ram Cnaan, Erinn Andrews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasing use of donor-advised funds (DAFs) creates challenges for nonprofit managers and fundamentally changes the way that many donors give to charity. We conducted 48 in-depth interviews with DAF donors to understand their strategies of how they give through a DAF. From the interviews, we found three distinct models of DAF giving strategies: tubs, tanks, and towers. Tub donors give quickly through a DAF, moving money in and out annually. Tank donors contribute large lump sums and grant the money away in the relatively near future. Tower donors take a calculated approach with the DAF to sustain their philanthropic activity over time. Several factors relate to these strategies, including the sources and timing of contributions, different purposes of grantmaking, tax implications, investment strategies, and family involvement. Our findings may help nonprofit managers, fundraisers, and other stakeholders to better understand the various ways donors give through DAFs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNonprofit Management and Leadership
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the participants in this study for their willingness to discuss their philanthropic giving with us and those who were willing to make referrals for this study. We acknowledge the Program for Religion and Social Policy Research at the University of Pennsylvania for their partial support of the study. We are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their generous and helpful feedback.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Wiley Periodicals LLC.


  • donations
  • donor-advised funds
  • giving strategy
  • philanthropy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management


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