Why Trusted Advisors Choose AEF

For over 20 years, American Endowment Foundation (AEF) has worked very closely with wealth, tax, and legal advisors. AEF is unique as it encourages and allows advisors to remain in control of asset management for their clients' donor advised funds, regardless if the account size is $10,000 or $10,000,000. We currently serve donors and their advisors in all 50 states. We have Development staff situated across the country who are able to visit advisory teams and educate them on donor advised funds and the AEF difference.

The many reasons that AEF is the donor advised fund choice of advisors:

  1. Advisors can manage the assets on their preferred platforms at any amount. Some other plans only allow administration to occur at certain levels, such as accounts above $250,000 or $1,000,000.
  2. Advisors can select the investments as they wish and do not have to choose from a very limited number of pooled funds that they normally would not select. They are able to provide their clients with the consistent investment advice they expect.
  3. AEF is very flexible in accepting and holding a wide variety of assets, from cash and publicly traded securities to complex assets including privately-held C-corp and S-corp stock, real estate, life insurance, interests in LLCs and LPs, etc.
  4. Clients can make grants during their lifetime or over successive generations.
  5. AEF is the leading independent donor advised fund in the country and is not a charitable branch of a financial company.
  6. AEF is a preferred DAF of Pershing, TDA, LPL, and other custodians as well as hundreds of wealth management firms and banks.
  7. AEF does not require lengthy contracts or charge annual fees. Its fees are substantially less than many other donor advised funds.
  8. Because 95% of new DAF accounts at AEF are referred by advisors, AEF provides a Thought Leadership library with useful content and training to help advisors in their work with clients.
  9. AEF has the experience in tailoring the use of donor advised funds to enhance other charitable strategies.
  10. Though AEF has grown significantly over the past few years to over 3200 donor advised fund accounts with over $1 billion in assets, AEF does not use a call center. Advisors and their clients still work directly with designated individuals at AEF. Our commitment to concierge service remains unchanged.


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Top 10 Questions: When to Consider
an AEF Donor Advised Fund


Top 10 Questions

Comparison: Private Foundations


Comparison: Private Foundations

As an advisor, can I manage or custody the assets in my client’s donor advised fund?

Yes. The advisor may manage/custody the assets in his or her client’s donor advised fund at the recommendation of the donor. AEF works with financial advisors on a brokerage or managed account basis and we work with all custodians.

Do I have a choice in where fund assets are held?

Yes. AEF can work with almost any custodian. When discussing a new Fund with AEF, make certain to let us know which custodian your firm uses.

Is AEF approved by my platform?

AEF has numerous approved institutional relationships. In short, AEF works on all platforms and custodians just like any other investment client. If you work with multiple platforms, AEF enables you to consolidate all of your investment accounts tied to AEF donor advised funds through our tax ID. If you have questions, please call us at 1-888-440-4233. We are likely working with other advisors on your platform.

How is AEF different from other donor advised fund programs?

AEF provides donor advised fund services for clients of accountants, attorneys, brokers, registered investment advisors, investment managers, financial planners, banks, and other financial institutions.

We are a full-service donor advised fund company and provide concierge-level services. Please note: AEF does not offer investment management services, nor sell investment products. Donors can recommend that their trusted advisors manage the investment of their Donor Advised Fund assets. This is unique from most other donor advised fund programs, which typically require DAF assets to be held in a limited menu of pooled investments, proprietary mutual funds, and managed by the institution. AEF does not cross-sell other products. Our sole focus is donor advised fund administration.

What types of assets are eligible for contribution to a donor advised fund?

In addition to cash and publicly traded securities, AEF can accept closely held stock, life insurance policies, real estate, and interests in limited liability partnerships and LLC's.

Another donor advised program I saw required that contributed assets be immediately sold . Does AEF have such a requirement?

No. Upon review, AEF can hold assets in-kind. When they are eventually sold, the advisor and their client recommend how they would like to reinvest the proceeds.

Can I transfer an existing donor advised fund to AEF?

Yes. AEF can assist advisors and their clients in weighing the benefits of moving an existing donor advised fund, and, where appropriate, in completing the transfer.

Can a donor advised fund be opened through a bequest?

Yes, a donor advised fund can be opened through a bequest. The exact bequest language for percentage, specific or residual bequests can be found here.

How do you determine the fair market value of a contribution?

Fair Market Value (for purposes of the charitable contribution deduction) is determined on the date that contributions are received by the fund. In the case of contributions of stock, Fair Market Value is the average of the high and the low for the day that the assets were received by the fund. In the case of contributions of mutual funds, Fair Market Value is the closing price on the date of receipt. Securities are typically liquidated the following business day after receipt, so the Fair Market Value for tax purposes may be different from the amount of sales proceeds credits to your donor advised fund.

What are AEF’s administrative fees?

AEF incurs expenses in operating your donor advised fund. These include donor services, phone support, mailed notices, statements and communications, grants administration, and online services. To cover the costs associated with these services, the fund assesses an account administrative fee. Fee schedules vary depending upon custodian and account size.To find out more, call us at 1-888-440-4233.

How much cash should be held in a liquidity account?

AEF holds up to 1% of each donor advised fund’s assets in an account called the liquidity account. Think of this part of the donor’s account as a cash reserve, from which cash is distributed -- primarily for grants and administrative fees.  We maintain a liquidity account for each fund to meet the donor’s grant making needs and minimize disruptions to the investment portfolio.

What are the contribution and balance requirements?

Individuals, as well as organizations or businesses, can open an account with a minimum of $10,000. After the initial contribution, you may make contributions of $1000 or more at a time.

How is AEF legally organized?

AEF was organized in 1993 as an Ohio nonprofit corporation. The IRS recognizes AEF as a tax-exempt public charity, under Section 501(c)(3). AEF’s employer identification number (Tax ID) is 34-1747398 .

AEF is registered to solicit and accept contributions in every state that has registration requirements.

Though rarely a concern, since AEF is technically the client, and is headquartered in Ohio, any Registered Representatives (stockbrokers) who have investment accounts with AEF need to be registered with the State of Ohio. Your brokerage firm’s compliance department can help with this.

Does AEF compete with advisors?

No. Our business model is unique in that we do not compete with advisors. We provide donor advised fund administration services, while the advisor acts as investment manager. Occasionally, donors will come to AEF directly and recommend an investment approach in a fund.

Will AEF employees speak personally with my clients?

We encourage advisors to participate in conversations directly with the client regarding portfolio investment. In most cases, advisors feel comfortable with our administrators speaking directly with their clients concerning grantmaking matters.

How do advisors get compensated for their work?

Investment advisors receive compensation via asset management fees or commissions in much the same way advisors are paid for managing their client’s personal investments.

Can I recommend investments?

Yes the financial advisor manages investments in their client's fund on their familiar custodial platform. Assets may be invested in a wide variety of publicly traded securities, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, in any combination.

How do you charge for your services?

Our fees are competitive and are based on the value of the assets in a fund. We may charge additional fees for legal and professional services in connection with accepting special illiquid assets. See Fee Schedule.

Do you sponsor a pooled income fund or gift annuity?

No. At this time we have chosen to focus our efforts on ensuring the simplicity and efficiency of our donor advised fund.

What criteria are used to determine the investment policy for the investment in a fund?

AEF’s Investment Guidelines document represents the main source of information regarding the investment guidelines for the donor advised fund. Whether the DAF has present and/or future successors has great bearing on how the fund must be managed.

The donor’s input is also important. Additionally, as the legal owner and fiduciary, AEF will have recommendations based on our experience as a fiduciary and our understanding of the donor’s intent. Relevant factors include the fund’s time horizon, liquidity concerns, grant making considerations, and legal constraints. The investment policy statement is a collective statement, agreed on by all parties, as to how the investment manager will select investments.

Can a donor advised fund be named as a partial beneficiary of a life insurance policy?

Yes, American Endowment Foundation can be named as a partial beneficiary of a life insurance death benefit.


Call us at 1-888-440-4233 or use our contact form to learn more.


Tom Tobin

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