Non-profit

Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

Location:

MALVERN, PA

Tax ID:

23-2888152

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $2,034,194,172
Expenses: $1,003,148,960
Assets: $8,661,965,723

Type:

Commercial Donor-Advised Fund Provider

Formation:

1997

President:

Jane Greenfield

Vanguard Charitable is the fourth-largest manager of donor-advised funds (DAFs) and the 17th largest grantmaking organization in the United States as of 2017. [1] Founded by the commercial investment firm Vanguard in 1997, Vanguard Charitable manages DAF accounts and “impact investing” portfolios for high-net-worth individuals, making grants to a range of charitable organizations across the political spectrum in accordance with the requests of individual donors. [2]

In 2019, Vanguard Charitable became the subject of criticism from the political left, facing accusations of funding “hate groups,” despite the fact that the charity is cause-neutral and disburses grants only when asked to do so by individual donors. [3] Most of the attacks on Vanguard came from left-wing online magazine Sludge, which alleged that Vanguard Charitable donated over $2.5 million to 11 “hate groups” between 2015 and 2017. [4] Sludge reporter Alex Kotch used a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) list to identify the alleged “hate groups,” a list which has been controversial even in left-of-center communities for grouping mainstream right-of-center organizations with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. [5] [6] An independent 2019 investigation of the SPLC list by David Montgomery published in The Washington Post Magazine called the list “elaborate taxonomy of ill will.” [7]

All of the alleged “hate groups” to which Vanguard Charitable made grants were registered charities in good standing with the IRS. [8] The  Post Magazine report singled out two of these groups, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), for having substantial ties to mainstream American government, with the ADF winning several cases before the Supreme Court over the past decade and the CIS having testified before Congress over 100 times. [9]

The left further critiqued Vanguard Charitable for providing donations to pro-life organizations, with anther 2019 Sludge report claiming that Vanguard Charitable was the 10th largest supporter the passage of laws in various states restricting abortion in the spring and summer of 2019. [10] However, Vanguard Charitable has funded organizations on both sides of the abortion debate, making over $10 million in donations to Planned Parenthood (PPFA) in 2015 alone, making Vanguard Charitable PPFA’s seventh-largest funder that year. [11]

Donor-Advised Fund Management

Vanguard Charitable is the fourth largest manager of donor-advised funds (DAFs) in the country. [12] DAFs allow donors to contribute money to individual fund accounts, receive immediate tax benefits for the donation, then recommend that the funds be disbursed to various other charities over time. [13] DAF accounts are never legally required to disburse funding, allowing funds to sit in accounts indefinitely without serving a charitable purpose. [14] In fact, Vanguard Charitable advertises the potential to pass DAF accounts along to children, with Vanguard Charitable not mandating that all funds be disbursed to charitable organizations during the account owner’s lifetime. [15]

DAF’s have drawn criticism for providing immediate tax benefits to donors without requiring that donors ever pay out of their DAF accounts. [16] Critics allege that the system allows fund managers, such as Vanguard Charitable, to charge management fees on the accounts to benefit associated for-profit businesses, whittling away at the initial charitable donation given to the account while allowing donors to reap immediate tax benefits even if their funds are never actually granted to charity. [17] The controversy has prompted proposed legislation in California to require DAF funds to disclose payout rates from each of their accounts under management. [18]

Vanguard Charitable has attempted to avoid this image, setting its own minimum per year gift to charity of $500 per account every three years on a minimum requirement to establish an account of $25,000. [19] Despite attempting to avoid appearing like a tax haven, Vanguard Charitable nonetheless advertises “the convenience you want, with the tax deduction you need” to promote its charitable investment accounts. [20]

ESG Investing

Aside from managing DAF accounts and making direct grants, Vanguard Charitable offers several “impact investment” portfolios for donors to invest their donated funds in companies that meet “certain ESG [environmental, social, and governance] criteria.” [21] The investment portfolios allow DAF account holders to invest the funds in the DAF account into various organizations in order to grow the account balance prior to disbursing the funding for charitable ends. [22]

Vanguard Charitable offers three stock options which allow donors to invest in a range of companies adhering to a set of prescribed social values. [23] The funds prohibit investment into any companies producing weapons, alcohol, tobacco, gambling, or adult entertainment. [24] Furthermore, the fund only allows investment in companies adhering to left-of-center environmentalist principles, prohibiting investment in companies that are involved in nuclear power or in companies which own fossil fuel reserves. [25]

Attacks from the Left

Since 2019, Vanguard Charitable has been attacked from the left for funding supposed “hate groups,” despite the fact that the charity does not exercise discretion over grant funding, instead making donations at the request of account holders. [26] Left-of-center groups have criticized Vanguard Charitable, and DAFs more generally, for allowing right-of-center donors to give to right-leaning charitable organizations while remaining anonymous, despite the frequent use of DAFs to contribute to left-of-center causes. [27]

In November of 2019, left-of-center publication PRWatch (a publication of the left-wing Center for Media and Democracy) attacked Vanguard for supporting a social media summit organized by President Donald Trump, alleging that groups affiliated with the summit “spread propaganda.” [28] Six months later, in March of 2020, PRWatch again attacked Vanguard for allowing contributions to the Heartland Institute, a right-of-center organization known for skepticism of human impact on climate change and environmentalism more broadly. [29]

Funding of “Hate Groups”

Most of the attacks on Vanguard began with left-wing online outlet Sludge in 2019 when a report alleged that Vanguard Charitable donated over $2.5 million to 11 “hate groups” between 2015 and 2017. [30] Sludge author Alex Kotch used a Southern Poverty Law Center list to identify these “hate groups,” a list which has been historically controversial even in left-of-center communities for listing mainstream right-of-center organizations as hate groups. [31] [32] The same report alleged that other DAF providers, including Fidelity Charitable and Schwab Charitable, were similarly guilty of funding SPLC-designated organizations. [33]

All of the alleged “hate groups” to which Vanguard Charitable made grants were registered charities in good standing with the IRS. [34] These groups included social-conservative and immigration-restrictionist organizations within the political mainstream, including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), and the Family Research Council (FRC). [35]

Following the Sludge reports, the left-of-center Amalgamated Foundation, a DAF provider associated with the Service Employees International Union-owned Amalgamated Bank, started the “Hate Is Not Charitable Campaign” to urge Vanguard charitable and other named charities to “filter out hate” by adopting policies to reject all donor-recommended donations to supposed “hate groups,” including mainstream right-of-center organizations. [36] The campaign further called on donors to move DAF accounts to other foundations if groups like Vanguard Charitable did not change their cause-blind giving policies. [37] The political left came out in strong support of the campaign, with groups including the CERES Trust, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), GLAAD, the Proteus Fund, and the Tides Foundation signing onto the campaign. [38]

An independent 2019 investigation of the SPLC list by David Montgomery published in The Washington Post Magazine called the list an “elaborate taxonomy of ill will,” grouping mainstream political organizations in with groups like the Ku Klux Klan. [39] Montgomery’s report explicitly singled out two of the groups which Vanguard Charitable had funded as victims of this taxonomy, noting that ADF has won several cases before the Supreme Court over the past decade and commenting that CIS has testified before Congress over 100 times. [40]

Criticism by Abortion Advocates

Vanguard Charitable has also been criticized for the left for providing donations to pro-life organizations, with the left-wing American Prospect republishing further reporting by Sludge alleging that Vanguard Charitable, along with other charities, “funded the state abortion bans,” in reference to a series of state-level abortion regulations passed during the spring and summer of 2019. [41] The Sludge report listed Vanguard as the 10th most prolific organization supporting the bans on the grounds that they gave $167,500 to groups “involved in writing, testifying on, lobbying on, or otherwise promoting” bills to limit abortions in the United States between 2013 and 2017. [42]

This critique of Vanguard Charitable, like others from the left, completely ignores Vanguard’s policy of cause-blind giving. In fact, Vanguard Charitable made over $10 million in donations to Planned Parenthood itself in 2015 alone, making it the organization’s seventh-largest funder that year. [43]

People

Despite frequent attacks by the political left, Vanguard Charitable has donated to a range of organizations across the political spectrum and has been associated with several high-profile figures, including frequent left-of-center donors. Google co-founder Larry Page has given over $400 million to Vanguard Charitable over the past decade, primarily through his Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation. [44] Page has been directly criticized for using his DAF accounts as tax havens after Page’s foundation failed to meet the minimum 5% payout rate for a family foundation, triggering last-minute donations into DAF accounts. [45] Page is a noted left-of-center donor, giving to the New Venture Fund in 2019. [46]

Billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk has also taken advantage of Vanguard Charitable to house funds from his private charity, the Musk Foundation. [47] In 2016, the Musk Foundation paid out just two grants that amounted to $47.8 million. [48] One of these grants, sent to Vanguard Charitable to establish a DAF account, amounted to $37.8 million, over 75% of the Musk Foundation’s total grants that year. [49] Similar to Page, Musk drew scrutiny for the move, with some critics accusing him of trying to hide efforts to support interests close to Musk with his philanthropic giving, as he has supported a charity managed by his brother and a school attended by his children in the past. [50]

References

  1. “DAFs Setting Records For 2017.” The NonProfit Times News, February 6, 2018. https://www.thenonprofittimes.com/npt_articles/dafs-setting-records-2017/. ^
  2. “About Us.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/about-us. ^
  3. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  4. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  5. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  6. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  7. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  8. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  9. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  10. Kotch, Alex. “These Corporations and Public Charities Funded the State Abortion Bans.” The American Prospect, June 21, 2019. https://prospect.org/health/corporations-public-charities-funded-state-abortion-bans/. ^
  11. Nielsen, Aly. “Planned Parenthood’s Biggest Donors Gave $374 Million in Four Years.” Newsbusters, July 31, 2015. https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/aly-nielsen/2015/07/31/planned-parenthoods-biggest-donors-gave-374-million-four-years. ^
  12. “DAFs Setting Records For 2017.” The NonProfit Times News, February 6, 2018. https://www.thenonprofittimes.com/npt_articles/dafs-setting-records-2017/. ^
  13. “How It Works.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/giving-with-vc/how-it-works. ^
  14. “How It Works.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/giving-with-vc/how-it-works. ^
  15. “Legacy Planning.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/giving-with-vc/how-it-works/legacy-planning. ^
  16. Schleifer, Theodore. “How a Lawsuit Could Reveal Secrets about Silicon Valley’s Favorite Philanthropic Loophole.” Vox, July 2, 2019. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/7/2/18691693/silicon-valley-donor-advised-funds-fidelity-charitable-lawsuit. ^
  17. Schleifer, Theodore. “How a Lawsuit Could Reveal Secrets about Silicon Valley’s Favorite Philanthropic Loophole.” Vox, July 2, 2019. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/7/2/18691693/silicon-valley-donor-advised-funds-fidelity-charitable-lawsuit. ^
  18. Schleifer, Theodore. “Why Jack Dorsey (and You) Should Pay Attention to This Proposed Charity Law in California.” Vox, January 15, 2020. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/1/14/21066132/california-bill-donor-advised-funds-silicon-valley. ^
  19. Wallace, Karen. “Under the Hood at Vanguard Charitable.” Morningstar, Inc., November 14, 2017. https://www.morningstar.com/articles/835478/under-the-hood-at-vanguard-charitable. ^
  20. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  21. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  22. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  23. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  24. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  25. “Values-Driven Investments.” Vanguard Charitable. Accessed August 3, 2020. https://www.vanguardcharitable.org/investments/values-driven-investments. ^
  26. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  27. Fiorillo, Victor. “Vanguard Charitable Has a Hate Group Problem.” Philadelphia Magazine, February 25, 2019. https://www.phillymag.com/news/2019/02/25/vanguard-charitable-splc-hate-groups/. ^
  28. PRWatch Editors. “Trump’s ‘Social Media Summit’ Allies Spread Propaganda Attacking Impeachment.” PR Watch, November 18, 2019. https://www.prwatch.org/news/2019/11/13506/trump%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%9Csocial-media-summit%E2%80%9D-allies-spread-propaganda-attacking-impeachment. ^
  29. Kotch, Alex. “‘Identity-Scrubbing’ Charities Bankroll Heartland’s Climate Denial.” PR Watch, March 23, 2020. https://www.prwatch.org/news/2020/03/13555/%E2%80%9Cidentity-scrubbing%E2%80%9D-charities-bankroll-heartland%E2%80%99s-climate-denial. ^
  30. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  31. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  32. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  33. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Christian Charity Funnels Tens of Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, March 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/03/19/americas-biggest-christian-charity-funnels-tens-of-millions-to-hate-groups/. ^
  34. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  35. Kotch, Alex. “America’s Biggest Charities Are Funneling Millions to Hate Groups.” Sludge, February 19, 2019. https://readsludge.com/2019/02/19/americas-biggest-charities-are-funneling-millions-to-hate-groups-from-anonymous-donors/. ^
  36. “Hate Is Not Charitable.” Amalgamated Foundation, April 21, 2020. http://amalgamatedfoundation.org/hate-is-not-charitable. ^
  37. “Hate Is Not Charitable.” Amalgamated Foundation, April 21, 2020. http://amalgamatedfoundation.org/hate-is-not-charitable. ^
  38. “Hate Is Not Charitable.” Amalgamated Foundation, April 21, 2020. http://amalgamatedfoundation.org/hate-is-not-charitable. ^
  39. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  40. Montgomery, David. “The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Delicate Task of Defining Hate in 2018.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 8, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2018/11/08/feature/is-the-southern-poverty-law-center-judging-hate-fairly/. ^
  41. Kotch, Alex. “These Corporations and Public Charities Funded the State Abortion Bans.” The American Prospect, June 21, 2019. https://prospect.org/health/corporations-public-charities-funded-state-abortion-bans/. ^
  42. Kotch, Alex. “These Corporations and Public Charities Funded the State Abortion Bans.” The American Prospect, June 21, 2019. https://prospect.org/health/corporations-public-charities-funded-state-abortion-bans/. ^
  43. Nielsen, Aly. “Planned Parenthood’s Biggest Donors Gave $374 Million in Four Years.” Newsbusters, July 31, 2015. https://www.newsbusters.org/blogs/nb/aly-nielsen/2015/07/31/planned-parenthoods-biggest-donors-gave-374-million-four-years. ^
  44. Schleifer, Theodore. “Google’s Larry Page Gave $400 Million in Christmas Donations. Not a Penny Went Straight to Charity.” Recode. Vox, December 18, 2019. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/12/18/21010108/larry-page-philanthropy-foundation-donor-advised-fund-christmas. ^
  45. Schleifer, Theodore. “Google’s Larry Page Gave $400 Million in Christmas Donations. Not a Penny Went Straight to Charity.” Recode. Vox, December 18, 2019. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/12/18/21010108/larry-page-philanthropy-foundation-donor-advised-fund-christmas. ^
  46. Schleifer, Theodore. “Google’s Larry Page Gave $400 Million in Christmas Donations. Not a Penny Went Straight to Charity.” Recode. Vox, December 18, 2019. https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/12/18/21010108/larry-page-philanthropy-foundation-donor-advised-fund-christmas. ^
  47. McCambridge, Ruth. “Elon Musk’s Foundation Gives $37.8M to Donor-Advised Fund.” Non Profit News . Nonprofit Quarterly, January 31, 2019. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/elon-musks-foundation-gives-37-8m-to-donor-advised-fund/. ^
  48. McCambridge, Ruth. “Elon Musk’s Foundation Gives $37.8M to Donor-Advised Fund.” Non Profit News . Nonprofit Quarterly, January 31, 2019. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/elon-musks-foundation-gives-37-8m-to-donor-advised-fund/. ^
  49. McCambridge, Ruth. “Elon Musk’s Foundation Gives $37.8M to Donor-Advised Fund.” Non Profit News . Nonprofit Quarterly, January 31, 2019. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/elon-musks-foundation-gives-37-8m-to-donor-advised-fund/. ^
  50. McCambridge, Ruth. “Elon Musk’s Foundation Gives $37.8M to Donor-Advised Fund.” Non Profit News . Nonprofit Quarterly, January 31, 2019. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/elon-musks-foundation-gives-37-8m-to-donor-advised-fund/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: June - May
  • Tax Exemption Received: December 1, 1997

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Jun Form 990 $2,034,194,172 $1,003,148,960 $8,661,965,723 $44,564,193 Y $1,762,454,882 $0 $182,571,391 $1,150,317 PDF
    2017 Jun Form 990 $1,698,906,641 $770,912,907 $7,292,651,781 $11,586,162 Y $1,546,748,309 $0 $139,618,014 $953,720 PDF
    2016 Jun Form 990 $1,381,769,475 $715,614,609 $5,768,821,441 $5,651,940 N $1,278,868,232 $0 $113,750,680 $1,412,621 PDF
    2015 Jun Form 990 $1,318,779,835 $708,620,937 $5,162,019,762 $5,989,388 N $1,205,209,693 $0 $95,175,424 $1,465,054 PDF
    2014 Jun Form 990 $1,090,629,084 $606,797,877 $4,539,460,183 $4,042,090 N $988,105,537 $0 $87,724,314 $1,322,882 PDF
    2013 Jun Form 990 $1,117,986,418 $509,528,710 $3,625,839,931 $30,020,972 N $1,032,588,619 $0 $73,719,145 $1,392,429 PDF
    2012 Jun Form 990 $908,901,187 $484,128,809 $2,764,661,559 $7,376,386 N $870,681,927 $0 $48,287,063 $1,234,400 PDF
    2011 Jun Form 990 $597,604,440 $7,855,148 $2,362,567,905 $33,104,829 N $568,626,827 $0 $41,297,411 $1,006,742 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program

    100 VANGUARD BLVD
    MALVERN, PA 19355-2331