The Case for Corporations to Leverage Donor-Advised Funds

Year over year, companies are increasing their focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the impact they have on communities. Corporate charitable giving is perhaps the most visible effort that companies undertake, and the amount being donated has increased steadily, topping $21 billion in 2020. 

Alongside this rise in corporate giving has been an increase in the number of companies offering to match employee donations to charity – up from 53% in 2014 to 71% in 2020.

These employee donation programs are often archaic and burdensome, and it’s estimated that $5 to $7 billion in eligible donations go unmatched by employers each year. 

Donor-advised funds (DAFs), tax-advantaged giving vehicles that have been around for decades, offer a compelling solution for both companies and their employees. As will be outlined below, DAFs have historically only been available to high-net-worth individuals, but Groundswell has built a platform that turns donor-advised funds into an affordable and easy-to-administer solution for corporate and employee giving. 

Groundswell believes that in the near future, companies providing donor-advised funds as a component of their total compensation approach will be as commonplace as 401(k)s, which were introduced in the United States in 1978.

Initially only utilized by the highest earners within companies who understood the intricacies of the tax benefits, 401(k)s have now become the ubiquitous tax-savings vehicle in the United States, with over 100 million accounts. 

In much the same way, Groundswell drives the adoption and utilization of donor-advised funds as America’s preferred charitable giving vehicle.

What is a donor-advised fund?

Donor-advised funds are charitable giving vehicles that allow individuals, families, and businesses to make a tax-deductible contribution to a fund, which can then be distributed to qualified charities over time. DAFs were first introduced in the United States in the 1930s, but their popularity has grown significantly in recent years.

Historically, DAFs have been primarily used by wealthy individuals and families. This is because DAFs often require a significant minimum donation to establish and maintain the fund, which can be a barrier to entry for many individuals with less disposable income.

For example, according to a report by the National Philanthropic Trust, the average size of a donor-advised fund in 2019 was $413,000, and the average initial contribution was $166,000.

Overall, the growth of donor-advised funds over the past decade reflects a shift in how affluent individuals and families approach charitable giving. DAFs offer a flexible, efficient, and tax-effective way to support a variety of causes over time, and their popularity is likely to continue to grow in the coming years.

Groundswell was created to ensure that average-income Americans are not left behind in this trend.

What is the difference between a DAF and a private foundation?

There are several key differences between a donor-advised fund (DAF) and a foundation:

  • Legal structure: A foundation is a separate legal entity, typically established as a nonprofit organization under state law, while a DAF is a fund held and managed by a sponsoring organization, such as a community foundation or financial institution.
  • Establishment: Establishing a foundation requires significant time, effort, and expense, including legal and accounting fees, filing paperwork with the IRS, and ongoing compliance and reporting requirements. In contrast, establishing a DAF is typically quicker and easier, with lower establishment costs.
  • Tax benefits: Both foundations and DAFs offer tax benefits for donors, including income tax deductions for contributions to the fund or foundation, as well as tax-free growth of assets held within the fund or foundation. 
  • Costs: Foundations generally have higher establishment and ongoing administrative costs, including legal and accounting fees, staff salaries, and overhead expenses, compared to DAFs, which are typically less expensive to establish and manage.

Overall, both DAFs and foundations offer donors the ability to support charitable causes and receive tax benefits for their contributions.

Historically, establishing a foundation has only made sense for the most wealthy individuals, families, and corporations due to the increased cost and compliance associated with their operation. Comparatively, donor-advised funds have offered high-income individuals and families, as well as profitable corporations, with a moderately cost-effective solution with nearly all of the same advantages as a foundation.

Groundswell ensures DAFs are no longer the enclave of the wealthy

According to a survey by U.S. Trust, 72% of high-net-worth individuals use DAFs as a key component of their overall charitable giving strategy. (Source: U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth 2018)

Over the past decade, DAFs have exploded in popularity. According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, the total number of donor-advised funds in the United States grew by 55% between 2010 and 2019, from 204,704 to 318,000. The total amount in donor-advised funds increased by 237% over the same period, from $38.8 billion to $131.1 billion.

But here’s the rub: DAFs are primarily used by wealthy individuals and families. According to the National Philanthropic Trust’s 2020 Donor-Advised Fund Report, 60% of DAF assets are held in funds with balances of $1 million or more. Historically, the average donor in the United States is as likely to have a DAF as they are a member of their town’s exclusive country club.

Donor-advised funds have been reserved for the ultra-rich primarily because they’ve only been offered by the gated community of wealth advisors and financial institutions – average people need not apply.

Groundswell’s mission to democratize philanthropy has led it to create the world’s most modern and accessible donor-advised fund.  Whereas a donor today needs $20,000 to open a DAF at Morgan Stanley, the minimum contribution on Groundswell is $1.

Groundswell makes DAFs an employee benefit

To further Groundswell’s mission to democratize philanthropy, the company has built a Software-as-a-Service platform that enables companies to provide their employees with individual donor-advised funds. 

Groundswell’s easy-to-administer platform invites eligible employees to download the Groundswell app from the iOS or Android store.  Subsequent account creation takes less than sixty seconds.  At that point, the employee is the owner of their own tax-advantaged donor-advised fund. 

Additionally, the Groundswell administrator platform allows companies to effortlessly create custom corporate gifting and matching programs.  These programs deposit charitable dollars into employee accounts according to the program rules established by administrators.  The funds are not taxable income to the employee, and once put into the employee’s account, the employee can send the funds to charity however they wish.

Advantages of providing employees with donor-advised funds

Financial wellbeing

As inflation and wage stagnation have eaten away at household incomes, many companies and HR teams have focused on the concept of financial well-being. 

Financial well-being is a trend in HR that focuses on promoting the financial health and security of employees. This trend recognizes that financial stress can have a negative impact on employees’ job performance, physical health, and mental well-being and that employers have a role to play in helping employees manage their finances and reduce financial stress.

Financial wellbeing programs typically include a range of resources and tools to help employees improve their financial literacy, such as educational seminars, online resources, and one-on-one financial counseling. Some employers may also offer financial incentives, such as matching contributions to retirement accounts or bonuses for achieving certain financial goals.

The trend toward financial well-being in HR has been driven in part by the growing recognition that financial stress is a major source of employee anxiety and distraction. Studies have shown that financial stress can lead to absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher healthcare costs for employers. By investing in financial well-being programs, employers can help reduce financial stress among their employees, improve job satisfaction and retention, and enhance overall business performance.

Considering that in 2020 70% of American households gave to charity, it’s safe to assume that charitable giving is an important part of the financial wellness of employees’ lives. This holds true across the wage spectrum. Low-income households give a higher percentage of their income to charity than high-income households. According to a 2018 study by the Urban Institute, households with incomes below $25,000 gave an average of 7.6% of their income to charity, while households with incomes of $200,000 or more gave an average of 4.2% of their income to charity.  Perhaps obviously, despite giving a higher percentage of their income, low-income households donate smaller dollar amounts to charity. In 2020, households with incomes below $50,000 gave an average of $1,336 to charity, compared to an average of $6,082 for households with incomes of $200,000 or more (Source: Giving USA 2021).

Knowing that your employees are giving to charity creates a compelling argument to provide for them a donor-advised fund along with charitable gifts and matches that effectively subsidize their annual giving. 

Tax advantages

There are three primary tax advantages that donor-advised funds can provide to your employees: minimizing taxable income in the current year while maintaining the ability to distribute funds in future years, the ability to donate appreciated stock assets, and the simplicity of a single year-end charitable giving receipt for tax reporting. 

First, because the DAF is a qualifying tax-exempt vehicle, contributions to them are immediately tax deductible.  This means that an employee – for instance, a high-earning sales executive receiving a large commission check – can work with a tax planner to make a large contribution to her donor-advised fund, minimize her current year tax liability, and then work strategically to distribute those funds over a longer time horizon. 

Second, donor-advised funds like Groundswell unlocks the ability for employees to donate appreciated stock assets – a significant philanthropy hack utilized by wealth donors for decades. 

When you donate appreciated stock to a charity, you can claim a deduction for the full market value of the stock at the time of the donation. Moreover, by donating the stock instead of selling it and then donating the proceeds, you can avoid paying capital gains taxes on the appreciation.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you purchased 100 shares of XYZ stock for $5,000 several years ago, and the stock is now worth $10,000. If you were to sell the stock, you would realize a capital gain of $5,000, and you would owe taxes on that gain. Assuming a capital gains tax rate of 20%, you would owe $1,000 in taxes.  At the conclusion of this sale, you would only have $9,000 to donate to charity.

Instead of selling the stock, you could donate the shares to a donor-advised fund. If you do that, you can claim a charitable deduction for the full market value of the stock, which is $10,000. You can then use the funds in the donor-advised fund to make grants to charities over time. Because you donated the stock instead of selling it, you can avoid paying the $1,000 in capital gains taxes that you would have owed if you had sold the shares.

Lastly, because an employee’s donor-advised fund is a tax-exempt vehicle that centralizes all of its users’ philanthropy, the employee receives only a single tax receipt for reporting purposes at the end of the year, regardless of how many contributions were made or charities were supported.

Lower fees

Online and recurring monthly giving to charity have been growing trends in recent years. Here are some statistics to illustrate the trend:

  • Online giving continues to grow year over year, with a 10.6% increase in online donations in 2020 compared to the previous year. (Source: Giving USA 2021)
  • Recurring giving has become increasingly popular, with a 20.4% increase in the number of recurring donors in 2020. (Source: Blackbaud Institute)
  • Donors who give online tend to give more than those who give through other channels. According to a 2019 report by Classy, the average online donation amount was $93, compared to $65 for offline donations.

Younger donors are more likely to give online and to prefer recurring giving. A 2019 report by the Nonprofit Tech for Good found that 60% of Millennials prefer to give online, and 54% prefer to give monthly.

These are all positive trends.  However, with the ease of online giving comes a cost: credit card transaction fees.  Typical online donation fees are 3% plus $0.30. Oftentimes, online giving platforms ask the donor to cover these fees in order to provide the full donation amount to the charity.  That means that an employee donating $100 online is paying $3.30 to do so.  If that employee has his gift set up to occur monthly, he is going to pay nearly $40 in fees. 

Groundswell’s revolutionary platform has reduced the cost of these transactions and has passed those cost savings to users.  Groundswell’s distribution fees are 1% – offering significant annual savings to employees.

Privacy leads to inclusion

Employee donor-advised funds also offer something essential to an inclusive and equitable employee giving program: privacy

In traditional corporate donation matching programs, employees must submit evidence of their donation to an administrator, often in human resources. For decades this arrangement was never questioned. How else would a company know where to send the match? However, in an increasingly polarized world and workplace, employees are increasingly hesitant to disclose what charitable organizations they support for fear of ridicule, or worse, retribution. 

For the first time ever, donor-advised funds offer an alternative. Because the DAF is a charitable account, with the funds contributed to it only eligible to be sent to charity, employees can contribute to their DAF and request that their match be made directly into their account. Since the employee has received their match prior to sending the money to the causes they care about, they can distribute the funds how, where, and when they like with complete privacy.

In this manner, Groundswell’s platform has completely reimagined what corporate matching looks like. The result is a more private, inclusive, and equitable program – all made possible by donor-advised funds. 

A true benefit that stays with the employee

Because the DAF is an individual account registered in the employee’s name – like a 401k plan or health savings account (HSA) – the employee is able to take their account with them if they were to leave the company. 

This makes leveraging a DAF for employee giving the first step toward truly making philanthropy an employee benefit. Previous models of employee matching were nothing more than process automation tools. But providing a portable DAF is giving an employee something of lifetime financial value. 

What do companies gain by leveraging donor-advised funds

Reduced risk

Within traditional matching programs, a company receives a request from an employee to send a donation match to a charity they’ve supported. The company, upon confirming the details of the charity, sends payment directly to the charity from the company’s account.  This action thereby directly associates the company with the charity – a potentially risky association in a hyper-polarized world. 

However, leveraging employee DAFs provides companies with an alternative. By structuring a corporate matching program through employee DAFs, companies can eliminate their association with recipient charities.  Because the company’s funds are only ever going to the DAF’s fiscal sponsor – in Groundswell’s case this would be the Groundswell Charitable Foundation – there is no financial link between the company and the charity. The charity receives disbursements from the Groundswell Charitable Foundation, at the recommendation of the employee (whose employment status or employer is not disclosed).  

The result is a matching program that is optimized for inclusion, not exclusion.

Reduced risk leads to increased inclusion

Not surprisingly, many companies have been fearful of directly associating with specific charities and have thus resorted to various forms of restricting the range of nonprofits eligible for corporate matches. This restriction has basically taken two forms.  

The first form happens when a company creates a list of charities it has proactively screened and approved.  These lists tend to have between five and 25 charities listed, with most of them national in scope. The problem with this list is that for most people, philanthropy is deeply personal and often local, and it’s unlikely that a large, national organization fulfills its philanthropic aims. 

The second form happens when companies attempt to place specific charities or issue areas on a “deny list” that excludes them from eligibility. Not surprisingly, this approach is a slippery slope. Each nonprofit or issue area that is restricted effectively amounts to a statement by the company that the issue at hand is not worthy of support – a statement that can be marginalizing for employees who want to support that nonprofit. 

One segment of eligible charities that are often excluded is religion. This is unfortunate for employees because giving to houses of worship accounted for $131 billion of the $324 billion in individual giving in 2020. According to a 2016 study by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 70% of low-income households gave to religious organizations, compared to 48% of high-income households.  While choosing not to directly support a religion may seem like a logical thing for a corporation to do, it fails to acknowledge that for many employees their house of worship is also their source of other social support, such as counseling, food security, or education. 

Groundswell believes that inclusion begins with inclusion – specifically, companies should strive to match contributions to any eligible 501c3 that is not a documented hate group. Our matching solution – which uses donor-advised funds as an intermediary – provides companies with the opportunity to do so. 

Reduced administrative burden

Like individuals, companies can also utilize donor-advised funds for their philanthropic giving. Due to their minimal legal, compliance, and administrative requirements, DAFs are often the most logical and cost-effective solution for companies looking to create a charitable vehicle for their corporate social responsibility. 

As part of its platform, Groundswell offers companies a corporate DAF at no extra cost. This corporate giving account is fully tax-advantaged and has the ability to create corporate grants that are sent directly to charity.

Employee Matching Gift Programs: A Competitive Advantage in Recruiting Top Talent

Employee matching gifts can be a valuable tool for companies looking to recruit talented employees. These programs allow employees to donate to their favorite charities, and the company will match the donation up to a designated amount.

So how do employee matching gift programs help with recruiting talented employees?

One of the main benefits of employee matching gift programs is that they help attract and retain employees who are passionate about giving back to their communities and have a purpose behind their efforts. By offering this type of program, companies demonstrate their commitment to social responsibility and philanthropy, which can be a significant factor for job seekers when choosing an employer.

In addition to attracting talent with employee benefits, matching gift programs can also help enhance the company’s reputation in the community and among potential job candidates. When companies support the causes that their employees care about, they send a message that they value their employees’ interests and are invested in making a positive impact beyond their core business.

Finally, implementing an employee matching gift program can also boost employee engagement and morale. Employees who participate in these programs feel empowered and valued, and they may develop a stronger sense of loyalty and commitment to their employer.

Let’s take a deeper look at each of these reasons for using employee matching gift programs to attract and retain talented employees.

How companies demonstrate their commitment to social impact and philanthropy with a corporate matching gift program

Corporate matching gift programs demonstrate a company’s commitment to social impact and philanthropy because these programs involve companies matching donations made by their employees to eligible non-profit organizations, usually on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Here are some ways in which companies demonstrate their commitment to social impact and philanthropy through their corporate matching gift programs:

1. It makes it easy for employees to donate to causes they care about.

Companies encourage employees to participate in their matching gift program by making it easy and convenient to donate to vetted charities. This can include having a user-friendly mobile application where employees can easily make donations and submit their matching gift requests when they feel inspired rather than waiting to make donations when they’re at a computer.

Removing the friction between being inspired to donate and being able to donate makes it much more likely that employees will participate in the matching program and make a social impact. This is generally a feature of a corporate gift matching program that makes employees feel included, lending to a higher likelihood of retention.

2. It creates an inclusive program that empowers employees to decide where their company’s philanthropy dollars go.

Traditionally, corporate philanthropy embodied a top-down approach, which gave decision-making power to the corporate leaders occupying the c-suite positions. This framework did not lend well to reflecting the diverse views of the company’s entire workforce.

While generally the decisions made by executives were made with noble motivations, they likely did not reflect the diverse interests of the workforce.

For example, while few will argue with donations made to a nonprofit focused on combatting climate change, some employees may be more invested in cancer research because they have firsthand experience.

The modern corporate philanthropy framework gives power to employees and allows them to decide where donation dollars should head towards.

At Groundswell, we believe impact is local. We love to tout the phrase “give where you live” because your dollars make the biggest impact when given to the organizations making a difference in local communities.

An inclusive corporate gift matching program empowers employees to make key decisions on who should receive their support, lending to diverse representation in its application when compared with traditional top-down methods of corporate philanthropy.

3. Setting ambitious giving goals and milestones reminds team members of their social impact.

Companies that set ambitious goals for their matching gift programs, such as a target dollar amount or percentage of employee participation, have a higher likelihood of building a strong company culture around giving. It also allows companies to showcase their effort both internally and publicly.

An employee gift matching program can help to motivate employees and demonstrate the company’s commitment to social impact and philanthropy.

This lends well to attracting employees who are deliberate about their social impact while building trust in the company.

Enhancing a company’s reputation and public image with employee matching gifts

Simply put, any effort a company makes that aligns with corporate social responsibility best practices are generally well received by the public. That same sentiment resonates with candidates for employment, giving companies a leg-up in the war for talent when pitted against other businesses that may not offer the same employee benefit.

When employees use their employee gift matching program, the company’s social impact in the community grows. Companies making a social impact likely build a reputation around generosity and philanthropy. Those companies become known for their impact on the community, likely attracting both customers and talented employees who want to be associated with a socially responsible company.

In a world where social media gives everyone a public platform, reputation is a key component in attracting and retaining hardworking employees who align with those corporate values.

Boosting employee engagement by subsidizing social impact

In March of 2023, Groundswell surveyed 600 employees working at companies with more than 50 employees. The results revealed that 64% of employees we polled believe they are more motivated to work more effectively and efficiently when their company’s philanthropy aligns with their values.

The results also revealed that 66% of the employees we polled said receiving a charitable giving stipend would inspire them to be more charitable.

From this study, we can deduce that employees who are offered to participate in an employee gift matching program are more likely to put more effort into their work than those who aren’t offered a program. Additionally, employees are also likely to contribute to a more charitable workplace culture when offered a stipend for their charitable giving.

Subsidizing employee social impact can boost employee engagement and lend to a more involved workplace culture.

Overall, employee matching gift programs can be a powerful tool for companies looking to attract and retain talented employees. By investing in their employees’ philanthropic interests and demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility, companies can differentiate themselves in the job market and build a more engaged and loyal workforce.

Read other related articles:

Tax Benefits of Corporate Donation Matching Gifts: All You Need To Know

Corporate donation matching gifts programs are rising in popularity, and for good reason.

As more companies shift to better business practices and align with corporate social responsibility values, business leaders are looking for more ways to provide employee benefits that also make a social impact. Enter corporate matching gifts programs.

Along with making the world a better place, an added benefit corporate matching gifts programs offer are tax deductions.

In this article, you’ll find information on what a corporate matching gifts program is, what tax deductions you can expect from corporate matching gifts as an employer and an employee, and a financial-wellness hack on how to maximize your benefits using donor-advised funds.

What is a corporate donation matching gift program?

A corporate donation matching gift program is a type of charitable giving program in which companies match the donations made by their employees to eligible non-profit organizations.

Corporate donation matching gifts program providers offer experiences that differ in how they streamline the donation experience, consolidate and catalog donation receipts, or give donors access to different features. Those differences include access to a mobile app or access to different tax-advantaged accounts.

Are corporate donation-matching gifts tax deductible?

Yes. Corporate matching gift donations, like independent donations, are tax deductible and follow the same tax deduction rules for donations to eligible organizations.

Tax basics of corporate donation-matching gifts

Corporate matching gift programs offer several tax benefits for both the company and the employees who participate in them.

Matching gifts are tax-deductible expenses and can be deducted from the company’s taxable income. This can help reduce the amount of taxes the company has to pay to the government.

For employees, the tax benefits of corporate matching gifts depend on how they make their donations.

Pre-tax donations

The donation is considered pre-tax if an employee donates to an eligible non-profit organization directly from their paycheck through a payroll deduction program. This means the employee’s taxable income is reduced by the amount of the donation, and they pay less in federal income taxes and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes.

Additionally, because the matching gift is made by the company, the employee may be able to deduct the entire amount of their donation, including the matching amount, on their federal income tax return.

Post-tax donations

If an employee makes a donation to an eligible non-profit organization outside of a payroll deduction program, the donation is considered post-tax. In this case, the employee can still claim a tax deduction for their donation, but they may not be able to deduct the matching amount made by the company.

It’s important to note that the tax benefits of corporate matching gifts may vary depending on the specific laws and regulations in your country and state. It’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to understand how matching gifts may impact your tax situation.

Using a donor-advised fund as part of your corporate matching gifts program

A donor-advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving vehicle that allows donors to make a tax-deductible contribution to a fund, which is then used to make donations to eligible non-profit organizations over time.

Many corporate leaders and high-wealth donors channel their donations through their DAF to receive financial advantages.

DAFs offer several tax advantages for donors, including:

  1. Immediate tax deduction: When a donor contributes to a DAF, they can immediately claim a tax deduction for the full amount of the contribution on their federal income tax return, even if the funds are not immediately disbursed to non-profit organizations.
  2. Capital gains tax savings: Donors can contribute appreciated assets, such as stocks or real estate, to a DAF and receive a tax deduction for the full fair market value of the assets. This allows donors to avoid paying capital gains taxes on the appreciation of the assets, which can be significant tax savings.
  3. Simplified record-keeping: When donors contribute to a DAF, they no longer need to keep track of individual donations made to non-profit organizations throughout the year. Instead, the DAF sponsor handles all record-keeping and tax reporting, which can simplify the donor’s tax preparation process.
  4. Flexibility in giving: Donors can recommend grants from their DAF to eligible non-profit organizations at any time, allowing them to support charitable causes as their interests and priorities change.
  5. Legacy giving: Donors can name their DAF as a beneficiary of their estate, ensuring that their charitable giving continues after their death.

It’s important to note that once funds are contributed to a DAF, the donor no longer has control over the assets and cannot take them back for personal use.

Additionally, DAFs are subject to annual administrative fees, which can vary depending on the sponsor and the size of the fund. As with any tax-related matter, it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to understand the full range of tax implications and benefits of corporate matching gift programs and a DAF.

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The 5 Best Donor-Advised Fund Software in 2023

There are many options if you’re looking for the best donor-advised fund software. 

You can undoubtedly look at every single one of them, but it’s not necessary. The top donor-advised funds offer the same basic functionality. The choice comes down to which provider is really in service to the nonprofits donors want to support, offering the service, convenience, and flexibility the company and its donors require. 

DAFs are no longer just a tool for the uber-wealthy. Individuals can use them as well. One of the easiest ways to do this is through a corporate giving platform.

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) provide a simple solution to support tax-deductible contributions. They are similar to a charitable foundation without the fuss. In fact, one of the best things about DAFs is how much of the money goes to work for nonprofits. 

Although foundations beat DAFs hands-down with 900% more in assets, DAFs comprise 42% of the giving. In addition to being more cost-efficient, DAFs don’t require public disclosures like foundations.

How to compare donor-advised fund software

As mentioned, many of the features and benefits are the same when you’re comparing the top contenders. Most donors will be concerned with fees and minimums that allow them to maximize their charitable contributions. In this article, we’ll compare Groundswell, Greater Horizons, Schwab Charitable and Vanguard Charitable. 

The five best DAF software compared

1. Groundswell

Fees: Donors pay no annual fee.


  • Account minimum: $0
  • Contribution minimum: $1, the lowest in the industry
  • Grant minimum: N/A

Value Proposition

Groundswell is the cost-effective option with no fees and a $1 minimum contribution amount. It offers a superior user experience in a mobile technology platform.

2. Fidelity donor-advised fund

Fees: Annual administration fee 0.60% or $100


  • Account minimum: $0
  • Contribution minimum: $0
  • Grant minimum: $50

Value Proposition

Fidelity offers a set of tools that helps donors find places to donate to and keep track of their donations. However, the annual cost of administration turns people away to other options.

3. Greater Horizons

Fees: Greater Horizons has a $500 minimum annual fee and is tiered according to the balance but pricing is not available online.


  • Account minimum: $0
  • Contribution minimum: $0
  • Grant minimum: $0

Value Proposition

Greater Horizons is a good option for those who don’t want the constraints of minimums. However, the signup process is largely manual. 

4. Schwab donor-advised fund

Fees: Schwab has a $100 minimum annual fee and is tiered according to the balance. Fees are the second cheapest for accounts under $25,000.


  • Account minimum: $0
  • Contribution minimum: $0
  • Grant minimum: $50

Value Proposition

Schwab offers an easy signup process but you’ll need a Schwab brokerage account and the DAF has limited customer service hours. 

5. Vanguard donor-advised fund

Fees: Vanguard has a $250 minimum annual fee and is tiered according to the balance. Fees are the second cheapest for large accounts. 


  • Account minimum: $0
  • Contribution minimum: $5000
  • Grant minimum: $500

Value Proposition

Although Vanguard has lower fees than some, the minimum contribution amount is one of the highest. 

Why Groundswell is the Obvious Choice

As mentioned, the main reason DAFs are so popular is that they offer tax advantages. Much like a retirement account, DAF account funds can be invested in appreciable assets and these investments grow tax-free. Donors, themselves, can donate non-cash assets, both privately and publicly held, for the full cash value without having to pay capital gains taxes. So, the donor gets a tax break and once they decide to disburse the funds to a non-profit, there may be more money to give. DAFs used to be available only to the wealthy and were sometimes exploited to pass wealth on to future generations without tax implications. 

The biggest advantage of the Groundswell option is its affordability and accessibility. Groundswell democratizes DAFs for all. With Groundswell, every employee can have a donor-advised fund. In addition to boasting the lowest operating costs, Groundswell is doing a few other things differently. The Groundswell philanthropy-as-a-service platform decentralized the process, making it easy for employees to

  • Donate whenever and wherever they choose
  • Make affordable contributions
  • Allocate a portion of their payroll into their donor-advised fund
  • Take advantage of corporate matching opportunities

Groundswell puts it all in a mobile-first app available on iOS and Android. It’s even easier for companies. They can include DAF contributions as a component of their overall compensation packages. Employee donations are safe, secure, and confidential. 

With Groundswell, your employees can be assured that what’s important to them is important to you. Like to know more? Contact Groundswell today.

The Ultimate Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with Step-By-Step Instructions

Consumers want to do business with companies who practice corporate social responsibility – and for good reason.

Companies that have a good CSR program have a long-term view on doing business and understand their impact on society. These companies know their business has a ripple effect, so they focus on how they can do the most good without sacrificing profits.

Companies that take the time to design and implement a thoughtful, intentional CSR strategy are often rewarded with loyal customers, a strong, talented workforce, and a positive public image. 

In other words, consumers want to buy from businesses that are making a lasting positive social impact and employees want to work for those same companies doing good in the world.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) helps create a framework for greater corporate purpose, and promises a better future with sustainable business operations.

In this Ultimate Corporate Social Responsibility Guide, we define corporate social responsibility and explain how to align and leverage CSR best practices for your company. We also give you tips on how you can make your company socially responsible and how to make the case for including CSR programs to your executive team.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility?

Corporate social responsibility is the integration of societal and environmental concerns into the strategy and operations of a business. 

It consists of initiatives and policies founded on the principle that companies should play a positive role in the community and be accountable for the impacts they have on society as a whole, alongside making profits. 

Corporations accomplish this by ensuring existing business practices are responsible and sustainable, and that corporate philanthropy supports causes that are meaningful and aligned to their core business.

With a commitment to implement a strong CSR strategy, companies have an opportunity to determine where and how their business intersects with communities. They can support solutions to a range of social problems like poverty, hunger, and disease. 

For example, the food company Campbell’s saw an opportunity to align its core business with the challenges surrounding access to healthy and nutritious food. In response, they implemented a 10-year program to improve food access in Camden, New Jersey.

Companies also have a responsibility to protect the environment, maintain a safe, inclusive workplace for employees, and even consider how a portion of profits could support social and environmental initiatives, such as programs that provide clean water to those in need, or help maintain and increase access to free public parks in underserved communities.

Companies that operate with CSR best practices are proud to share how they give back to society, often through cause-related messaging, to encourage employees to volunteer and customers to support business.

As a byproduct, companies that grow in size also grow the size of their CSR programs. This growth gives corporations the opportunity to make a larger social impact as well as bring in more profits.

Why does CSR Matter?

Growing expectations by consumers and employees around the positive role that companies can and should play in society means that CSR matters more than ever. Increasingly, it can impact the bottom line – with consumers rewarding companies for their efforts to operate responsibly by purchasing their products in larger quantities, and with higher prices, just to name a few.

Corporations must learn how to adapt to the demands of this shift in consumer behavior while continuing to produce the goods consumers want.

Reasons why companies practice corporate social responsibility

Business Longevity

In the past, a corporation’s main responsibility was to make money for its shareholders. And while that is still important, it is also true that shareholder value can be increased through a business model that is more responsible and sustainable. 

An example of a company that has grown and benefited by integrating CSR into its core business practices is Dr. Bronner’s. Not only has their CSR program improve customer loyalty, it’s helped make a positive social impact.

Employee Engagement and Retention

Employees, especially the Gen Z workforce, increasingly want to work for a company that aligns with their values. Employees are most engaged with a company that is giving back to the community. A growing trend in business shows that employee satisfaction and employee-to-company relationships directly impact performance.

Companies with strong CSR practices can see increased productivity from their employees, less turnover and attrition rates, less absenteeism, enhanced loyalty and goodwill towards the organization, and positive word of mouth.

As a byproduct of a company’s CSR efforts, employees also feel their individual interests being taken care of, especially for those who offer employee benefits packages that include health, retirement, and charitable giving programs that empower employees to give to charity. 

Attract and keep customers

It is possible that some, if not most, of companies’ customers will have a social agenda of their own and may not be willing to support a company that is not socially responsible. Research has shown that customers are four to six times more likely to buy from and trust a company that has a strong sense of purpose.

The companies that can tap into consumers’ sentiments around social and environmental issues and prove they are responsible corporate actors will likely have an edge over competitors who don’t.

Public Reputation

It’s no secret that a company’s reputation and their social responsibility are closely linked. Practicing social responsibility gives a company a chance to have the secondary benefit of making a positive impact on their reputation. 

Having a good reputation in the community and with the public is a major factor in growing a successful business.

Corporate social responsibility benefits

While few People Leaders see CSR as a burden of business operation, corporate social responsibility campaigns actually afford several benefits to businesses.

A good CSR campaign that promises to improve employee retention saves a company in onboarding and training expenses as well as the opportunity costs that come with losing talented employees.

Furthermore, companies with useful CSR-supporting software can save on hiring data-entry specialists. Tools like Groundswell can cut out the administrative duty needed for managing a corporate giving program.

How to Build a CSR Program

  1. Identify important company goals
  2. Understand consumer interests
  3. Brainstorm programs
  4. Carry out program plans
  5. Measure results

Designing and implementing a CSR program must be guided by the company’s business strategy, customer expectations, and employees’ interests. It is often shaped by the company’s operational footprint, the industry or sector, and where employees are based. 

1. Identify important company goals

The first step is to identify and prioritize important company goals and how the CSR program supports those. This includes understanding your industry and the challenges that you are going up against, both today but also what is on the horizon.

Take note of how the business is going, who the detractors are and who the supporters are. This information will help guide your CSR campaigns during planning.

2. Understand consumer interests

Put yourself in the shoes of your customer and what they might be looking for. You’ll find this exercise enlightening and helpful in deciding where to put your resources. Do they support your business (product, service, etc) because of an existing CSR program that inspires them?

Aligning your programs to not just meet the expectations of your customers but give them a sense of pride and true connection to your business puts the company in a better position to compete with companies offering similar products or services.

It also helps to find out what employees care about. Often, employees are also consumers, so getting to know your workforce can provide strong insights.

3. Design programs

The communities closest to your business, its operational footprint, and reach of the product or services, will be the first to experience your social impact. This can be mapped based on geographic footprint as well as demographic groups. Based on this mapping, you might identify and provide funding to nonprofits that are serving those communities closest to the business.

If your employee base is also local, then supporting local schools, community centers, and other social programs can result in a healthier, thriving workforce. 

Aligning your CSR programs with stakeholder interests helps your company’s reputation, as well as helps build stronger, positive relationships in the community. 

As you brainstorm and design programs, think of ways you can make a positive impact on the lives of your employees, customers, and the broader community.

During the design phase, it’s also important to articulate your overarching goals and develop Key Performance Indicators to help you measure progress against those goals. This is a critical part of program design that will enable you to report back to internal and external stakeholders on the value of the programs.

4. Carry out CSR programs

Once the planning stages of your CSR program are complete, it’s time to carry out your campaigns.

After some time, your company’s CSR program will go through several changes and continue to refine itself. As long as your team puts an effort in organizing and managing the CSR program, you can feel confident that you’ll develop a program that works best for your business.

A great way to get started with a CSR program that requires little-to-no administrative requirements, corporate giving and matching programs work well.

5. Measure results

In order to celebrate the successes but also make necessary adjustments, it’s important to gather data and keep track of your progress by measuring your program’s impact. 

Some key performance indicators (KPIs) of a good CSR program could include a number of community members served/impacted by the nonprofit programs your company supports; level or percentage of employee engagement in a giving or volunteer program; and an improved or positive ‘score’ on CSR rankings (e.g. Dow Jones Sustainability Index, 3BL Corporate Citizens Awards, Sustainable Brands, etc).

Examples of Companies with Amazing Corporate Social Responsibility Programs

Patagonia is an outdoor clothing company based in Ventura, California. Their mission is to create quality products that last a lifetime.

In addition to its sustainability practices and its clothing-repair program, Patagonia donates its profits to its nonprofit, Holdfast Collective, an organization dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.

Starbucks is a coffee company based in Seattle, Washington. This people, planet, and profit-positive focused company has CSR programs focused on inclusion and diversity.

Starbucks established the Starbucks Foundation in 1997, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with the goal of strengthening humanity by uplifting communities. As part of their mission, the have the goal of hiring 25,000 US military veterans and spouses by 2025 as part of their program.

Toms is a shoe company based in Los Angeles who pioneered the One for One model–which was a program that gave away one pair of shoes for every pair sold. 

Today, Toms gives away ⅓ of profits to fund grassroots initiatives to help those in need of support for mental health. Since 2006, Toms has given away over 100,000,000 shoes and impacted just as many lives.

Bombas is a clothing company based in New York whose mission is to put thoughtfully designed, essential clothing into the hands and onto the feet of those in need.

The company donates the #1, #2, and #3 most requested items to homeless shelters as well as donates one pair of socks for every pair of socks purchased. To date, Bombas has donated over 75 million items.

Pitching your CSR Program to Your Executive Team 

1. Frame Your Pitch

When pitching your CSR campaigns to your executive team, you want frame your presentation in a way that speaks to why the programs are valuable to the business and not just “for the good of society.”

Executives have a responsibility to grow the business and return value to shareholders, so a CSR program needs to stay aligned with business objectives to be considered worth the budget required to execute it.

Framing your pitch to speak on the goals of the business, how the CSR program will help employee performance, how the program aids in employee retention, and how it reduces the cost of onboard and training new employees will help your executive team understand the benefit from a business point of view.

2. Collect Supporting Data

As you create your presentation, include a section that discusses the impact CSR campaigns have had on business results in recent years.

Look for information highlighting employee satisfaction and retention as a result of CSR programs as well as reports on employee productivity and performance. 

There’s a strong correlation between employee performance and CSR programs that have been proven through scholarly research. 

The Wall Street Journal reported companies experience 52% lower turnover among newer employees involved in corporate-purpose programs.

3. Choose the Right Program Software

Part of managing your CSR programs is having the right software to support your team’s needs.

Depending on the CSR programs you have in place, there are a handful of software you can use to take the hard work out of implementation, organization, and management.

For example, when considering how best to empower employees to donate to charities, Groundswell Giving is an example of a corporate giving platform that takes the work out of managing a workplace giving program. What’s more, Groundswell provides program administrators easy access to the data to help report back to key internal stakeholders about the causes that are supported, top charities, total funds sent to charities, and level of employee engagement in the program.

4. Present to Your Team

During your presentation, be sure to communicate how the corporate social responsibility program will help the company achieve its larger business goals.

While you’ll want to speak to the broader importance of practicing corporate social responsibility, your message will resonate most with the executive decision-makers when your message is paired with the business case for the CSR programs.