How to Make Grants from Donor-Advised Funds

Contributed by: Matthew E. Chope, CFP® Matt Chope

I talk to a lot of clients who have set up Donor-Advised Funds or family foundations and are confused. They’ve figured out how to put money in, but how to make grants isn’t always as clear. The IRS prohibits using these funds to satisfy a pledge. That doesn’t prohibit you from supporting organizations like churches, but it does mean you need to follow certain steps.

The first step is to talk to your attorney and your CPA. They can give you tax and legal advice about making a grant. Carla Hargett, the Vice President of Raymond James Trust, told me if you’re planning on giving to your church, for example, she believes the best way to handle the Donor-Advised Fund Grants is to start by discharging any pledge made in the past. Donor-Advised Funds cannot be used to satisfy a pledge. You can let your church know you intend to provide General Support for a certain amount of money and year(s) going forward. The amount can be close to an amount you’ve given in the past – that’s up to you. But any legally enforceable pledges must be cancelled first. This should stop the audit trail if the IRS ever decides to get into the particulars with a grantor. So make sure the grant requests from your Donor-Advised Fund should say something like "2016 General Support.”  

When pledge time comes around, I recommend that you write on the pledge card something like, "I intend to request a distribution of $XXXX.XX from my Donor-Advised Fund during the 20XX fiscal year." Your church or charitable organization will be familiar with this language and can use it for budget planning similar to a pledge.

We just want to make sure that Grantors of donor-advised funds are doing things as accurately as possible and if an IRS auditor someday digs into your grants, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Matthew E. Chope, CFP ® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. Matt has been quoted in various investment professional newspapers and magazines. He is active in the community and his profession and helps local corporations and nonprofits in the areas of strategic planning and money and business management decisions.

The information contained in this blog does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Matt Chope and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. Raymond James and its advisors do not offer tax or legal advice. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional.