US: Big Money, Quiet Power: A Look at the National Christian Foundation

The National Christian Foundation is one of the biggest donor-advised funds in the United States, yet it has a remarkably low profile—at least in the secular nonprofit world. NCF’s grants totaled a whopping $960 million last year, a figure that has grown in leaps and bounds over the past decade. Its rise is more evidence of the growing popularity of donor-advised funds among many donors, as well as the attractiveness of DAFs that are mission-driven.

NCF's grantmaking also offers a window into the powerful world of conservative Christian philanthropy. While many of the funds that flow through NCF benefit thousands of churches, ministries and charitable groups, this is also a major conduit of cash that benefits a range of causes on the right. What's more, as with other DAFs, the donors behind this giving are almost entirely anonymous. 

NCF got its start as the brainchild of faithful financiers Terry Parker, Ron Blue, and Larry Burkett. Back in the early 1980s, Parker and his colleagues saw the need for a community fund with a Christian mission. NCF was the result, a place where well-heeled churchgoers could focus their almsgiving and be sure it went to the right causes.

But Parker and team didn’t stop there. NCF’s genius lies in its lawyerly drive to open up all avenues of giving, tapping every asset type, and make each one pay tax-day dividends. NCF’s mission reflects that ambition: “mobilizing resources by inspiring biblical generosity.” The late Terry Parker and current president David Wills elaborate further in this interview with Philanthropy Roundtable.

NCF clearly has the “mobilizing resources” part down to a science. But let’s not forget that key word: biblical.  NCF is, to be plain, a fundamentalist Christian organization. In its statement of faith, it affirms that “the entire Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God; the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” So it isn’t surprising to find a lot of resources going to the “family values” movement. Read more via Inside Philanthropy