Despite criticisms that they sometimes don't distribute contributions in a meaningful way, donor-advised funds have risen in popularity and are now regarded by many advisors as the vehicle of choice for charitable giving.

DAFs granted a record $9.66 billion to charities worldwide in 2013. That's a 12.6% increase over 2012, according to the 2014 Donor-Advised Fund Report by the National Philanthropic Trust, the largest independent DAF sponsor. Total DAF charitable assets grew nearly 20% over the year, to $53.74 billion.

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