How to name a donor-advised fund — Your complete guide

The process of opening a donor-advised fund (DAF) is so simple, that the hardest step might be choosing the right name that best fits the fund. After all, most DAFs are established to support a cause that the donor is passionate about or to honor a dearly beloved friend or family member. This can make it intimidating to select a name that lives on for generations.

Whether you’re a donor thinking about establishing your first DAF or an advisor looking to provide your clients with some inspiration, here’s what you need to know about how to name a DAF so it complies with regulations, honors its philanthropic mission, and accurately represents the sponsoring charity as well as the donor’s generosity.

Why are DAFs named?

Why do donor-advised funds need names at all? There is a functional purpose, as distinct names help to differentiate DAFs. A good name:

  • Ensures clarity regarding the ownership and/or purpose of the fund.
  • Is important for record-keeping and administrative purposes. 
  • Can facilitate compliance with regulations. 

However, more importantly, a good name can provide donors with the opportunity to promote their deeply-held values or honor a cause or a loved one. 

The naming process can assist a donor in thinking about how they’d like to use their charitable dollars, offering them an opportunity to be thoughtful about their philanthropy. DAFs are named to support and draw attention to specific causes, to honor a departed mentor or loved one, or to begin a tradition of family giving.

How do you name a charitable gift fund?

The choice of DAF name is entirely up to the donor, though it does need final approval from the sponsoring charity. The donor officially names the DAF when the fund is established and funded. 

The fund name should include a descriptor, like “giving fund” or “charitable fund”, to show that the grant is from a DAF and not from a personal account. Though a donor-advised fund is not technically a foundation or a trust, many donors elect to use their own name or a family name followed by “fund,” “foundation,” or “giving account.” 

Note that it’s not necessary to include “The” at the beginning of the DAF’s name. You’ll want to leave it off in most cases, unless it’s part of a specific quote or phrase. 

Are there naming limitations for a DAF? 

Generally, there are no reasonable limitations on donor-advised fund names. Depending on the sponsoring organization there may be a character limit so that the name is not overly long. 

The sponsoring organization does reserve the right to reject an account name — especially in the case of names that are deemed offensive or problematic — but those situations are rare. In most cases if there is a problem with a name, a representative of the organization will work directly with the donor to find the best alternative.

Be aware that it isn’t always a good idea to use the descriptors “trust” or “foundation” as part of the name, as that can cause problems when funding is testamentary or by way of beneficiary designation.  

For example, if upon their death a donor chooses to leave their life insurance policy to their DAF named Richardson Family Trust, the life insurance company will want to see a copy of the trust before they pay out the death benefit. That’s a problem, because in the case of a DAF, there isn’t always an established trust that can be shown. 

To keep things simple, a donor should only consider naming their DAF as a “trust” or “foundation” if it receives funding from either of these charitable giving vehicles. 

A final consideration is if the DAF will be a shared account. In that case, all donors should consult with the other account holders to find a name on which everyone agrees. This will not only avoid future disagreements, it can serve as a great opportunity to establish a shared vision for the DAF and enable each donor to clarify their charitable goals and overall granting strategy. 

What are common DAF names? 

If you’re looking for inspiration for a donor-advised fund name, consider the following categories for ideas:

  • Family legacy names — Many DAFs are named after their individual donors (John Smith Fund, for instance), or entire families if multiple family members are involved (the Smith Family Fund). Example family legacy names can include:
    • Truman Family Giving Fund
    • Heather and Steve Anderson Family Fund
    • Sanchez Family Charity Fund

  • Memorial and Honorary Names — Some donors choose to name their DAF in honor or memory of someone else to continue that individual’s legacy. Example memorial or honorary names can include: 
    • Uncle Bob’s Family Legacy Fund
    • Violet Simmons Memorial Giving Account
    • The Michael Davis Giving Fund

  • Mission Related Names — Another popular choice is to name a DAF after a cause that is most important to the donor. In this case the donor should consider whom they wish to help or the goals they’d like to achieve. These names can incorporate positive verbs like “heal,” “assist,” or “rescue” or nouns like “equity,” “sustainability,” and “conservation.” Example mission-related names can include:
    • Urban Health Charitable Assistance Fund
    • Homeless Animal Rescue Fund
    • At-Risk Youth Philanthropy Account

  • Custom and Personalized Names — If there’s a particular phrase, quote, or saying that is important to the donor and their cause, that can also serve as the DAF’s name. A line from a favorite poem, the name of a cherished location or even a verse from holy scripture can all serve as great DAF names. Example personalized names can include: 
    • Together We Rise Charitable Giving Fund
    • Mt. Washington Giving Fund
    • The Change We Wish to See Foundation

How can I brainstorm a name for my DAF? 

First consider the main purpose of the DAF — will it be dedicated toward helping specific causes, or is it intended to honor a loved one? 

If the donor wants to make the cause front and center, then they could be direct with a mission-focused name or try to personalize it further with a phrase that’s meaningful to their family. 

If the intent is to honor someone, consider if the mission of the DAF is meant to reflect an individual, or is more meaningful for an entire family. 

Examples of real-world DAF names include: 

  • DAF named after a beloved one: The Matthew Perry Foundation
  • DAF name that establishes a family legacy: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Donor-Advised Fund
  • DAF name that focuses on a mission: Jewish Communal Fund of New York
  • DAF name that is meant to inspire: Network for Good

Can I change the name of my DAF later?

Yes, donor-advised funds are designed to evolve and change along with the donor’s goals and missions, so their names are relatively easy to change. Changing a DAF’s name is a fairly simple process of submitting an account update form.

This is in contrast to a foundation, where you have to comply with lengthy IRS guidelines to change a name.

Can I still give anonymously if I name my DAF?

With a donor-advised fund, the donor always has the option to donate anonymously. While some donors choose an inconspicuous name for the sake of total anonymity, that may not be necessary. Each time a donor issues a grant to a charity of choice, they have the option to select their desired level of anonymity: 

  • Print the name of the DAF on the check 
  • Print their own name and demographic information
  • Elect to remain anonymous and print nothing

The flexibility of donor-advised funds is just one of their many benefits and reasons for their growing popularity among donors. If you have other questions about donor-advised funds, contact any of the experts at Ren and they’ll be happy to help. 

Is a donor-advised fund the right choice for your client?​

Get the answers to the most frequently asked questions about donor-advised funds in our free eBook — 12 Questions to Ask Before Setting Up a Donor-Advised Fund.