Anew Ipsos poll found that a majority of Americans support private foundations, with endowments, but with more limits, requirements and funds granted.

Americans support a 3-year emergency charity stimulus to boost foundation payout in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic to support the nonprofit sector.

Americans also support (79 percent) a requirement that donor-advised funds (DAFs) enact a payout during the COVID-19 emergency and recovery period.

The Ipsos poll, conducted in the field May 23-24, 2020, measured both awareness of the practices of foundations and donor-advised funds and gauged support for a government mandate to temporarily increase foundation payout from 5 to 10 percent.

Most Americans have a limited understanding of how charitable foundations and donor-advised funds work. Once explained, however, the poll found many characteristics of foundations and DAFs are not very acceptable to Americans.

For example, 93 percent of Americans found it unacceptable that donor-advised funds (DAFs) are under no obligation to disburse any funds to active charities. Americans felt strongly (79 percent) that DAFs should have minimum payouts and greater transparency, even if it reduced the accumulation of dollars in the accounts.

When specifically asked about the emergency 3-year payout at 10 percent, a majority of Americans, 72 percent, supported the idea, with just 5 percent strongly disagreeing.

Some legacy foundations are concerned about the idea of increasing payouts, even on a temporary basis, since they are focused on existing in perpetuity. A solid majority of Americans (80 percent) strongly agree that taxpayers should not have to subsidize wealthy donors in the creation of legacy foundations. But they also believe foundations play an important role (80 percent).

There is widespread concern about the health of the nonprofit sector during the COVID-19 crisis. Americans are aware that charities are struggling but a minority (42%) are aware how significant the sector is to employment and the economy.

The poll was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with Sector 3 Insights and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality.  A summary of the poll can be found here.  Full polling tabs are available to download here.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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