Frequently Asked Questions

We welcome the opportunity to respond to your inquiries about the types of services available. Listed below are some of the most frequently asked questions. If your questions are not answered after reviewing our website, please do not hesitate to contact us.

STRENGTH & STABILITY

(GENERAL FIRM QUESTIONS)

 
What is the history of HighGround?

In 1930, the Baptist General Convention of Texas (Texas Baptists) created the Baptist Foundation of Texas (now HighGround Advisors) to manage the endowment assets of Texas Baptist institutions. The economic disaster of The Great Depression threatened the existence of Texas Baptist universities, children’s homes, and hospitals and the Foundation was established to enable these institutions to continue their important work. For nearly a century, we have advanced the missions of churches, ministries and nonprofits by providing investment management, gift planning and account support services. In 1996, our subsidiary, Concord Trust Company (now HighGround Trust Company), was established to manage charitable assets and administer all of HighGround’s charitable trusts and gift annuity accounts. It is chartered by the Texas Department of Banking.

When was HighGround Advisors founded?

1930

When was HighGround Trust Company founded?

1996

What services do you provide?

HighGround provides asset management, gift planning and account support services.

How many assets does HighGround have under management?

HighGround currently has $2.3 billion in assets under management.

What is HighGround's purpose or mission and what are your core values?

See Mission & Vision

See Core Values

Why should I partner with HighGround?

Partner with HighGround to Protect, Strengthen and Grow your assets. To learn how we partner with clients, click here.

What is your experience working with nonprofits?

For nearly a century, HighGround has managed assets exclusively for various nonprofit organizations, such as colleges, universities, hospitals, children’s homes, retirement homes, faith-based ministries and churches. HighGround’s portfolio includes over 470 nonprofits, churches and beneficiaries. We manage approximately 950 trusts, annuities, donor-advised funds and over 6,700 accounts. Our unmatched knowledge of nonprofit investment management has fostered long-term partnerships with our clients — some since 1930.

What is HighGround's nonprofit status?

HighGround Advisors is a tax-exempt public charity, as described in sections 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Is your organization a subsidiary, parent, or affiliate of any other firm?

HighGround Advisors is the parent company to HighGround Trust Company, which was established in 1996 and chartered by the Texas Department of Banking. HighGround Trust Company has a shared services arrangement with HighGround Advisors in which all of the Advisors’ personnel are made available to HighGround Trust Company.

Do you have a Code of Ethics Policy?

HighGround has an established Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy and proper internal compliance controls in place. These controls are monitored by our Internal Auditor, Director on Information Systems & Security and Chief Operating Officer. These policies and our SOC 1 Report are available upon request and linked here.

Do you have a Privacy Policy?

You can view our privacy policy here.

What is HighGround’s governance structure?

HighGround Advisors is organized as a Texas not-for-profit corporation under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is governed by a 12-member board, of which 51% is appointed by Texas Baptists and with the remaining 49% elected by the corporation’s board. The board is charged with oversight of the corporation and delegates day-to-day management to the executive team, which currently consists of six officers. HighGround Advisors does not receive funds from the Texas Baptists’ Cooperative Program. We do not solicit funds for its benefit, and we do not make grants or distributions under its authority. 

Has HighGround been a party to any lawsuit, including suits involving malfeasance or professional negligence, within the last ten years?

No.

Does HighGround carry adequate errors and omissions insurance?

Yes, HighGround Advisors maintains a $5 million Depository Institution Bond insuring against employee dishonesty, burglary, robbery, forgery and similar crimes and a $2 million Errors and Omissions policy. Both policies are underwritten by The Cincinnati Insurance Company. HighGround Advisors and our subsidiary, HighGround Trust Company, are equally covered by both policies.

Is HighGround a grant-making organization?

No.

Is HighGround Trust Company a state-regulated trust company?

Yes.

Are you a co-fiduciary?

Yes, HighGround Advisors can serve as a co-fiduciary.

 

CLIENT SOLUTIONS

Are there educational materials and programs available to clients?

Yes. By advising, teaching, and training our clients’ staff, board members, and donors, HighGround equips our clients to pursue their missions with excellence.

We enhance our clients’ knowledge of investment matters through group training and one-on-one consultations. In addition to our routinely scheduled presentations to staff, boards of directors and investment committees, our partnership provides same-day interaction with staff for explanations and discussion of investments and market conditions. We also provide thought leadership content through HighGround’s blog, quarterly newsletter and webinars. 

Additionally, HighGround provides training to our clients’ board members and staff on planned giving vehicles and their taxation and administration. By educating our clients on the latest and most comprehensive giving solutions, we empower them to help their donors make wise charitable giving decisions. Our team of expert in-house lawyers specializes in nonprofit law and legislation unique to tax-exempt organizations. We provide important protective guidance on state and federal compliance to our nonprofit clients.

Can you offer training to board and investment committee members as it relates to their fiduciary responsibilities?

Yes, HighGround’s Vice President and General Counsel will offer training to your board and investment committee members as it relates to their fiduciary responsibilities. Additionally, HighGround’s standard investment materials and presentations will enable your board and investment committee members to capably fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities. HighGround has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA), which governs the management, investment and expenditure of institutional funds. HighGround’s endowment management process ensures clients meet UPMIFA requirements.

How frequently do you recommend meeting?

Once an investment strategy is developed and implemented, we recommend meeting quarterly in person or virtually with our client partners and at least annually in person for a review with our clients’ boards. However, we are available for more frequent meetings, if desired.

How do you open an account?

HighGround Funds are designed primarily to serve the needs of nonprofit investors. The initial investment minimum required to open an account will be evaluated based on each relationship and will align with the fee minimum for each service offered by HighGround Advisors. Please email David Slover at david.slover@highgroundadvisors.org to obtain information about opening an account at HighGround Advisors.

ASSET MANAGEMENT

How many assets does HighGround have under management?

HighGround currently has $2.3 billion in assets under management.

What types of assets do you manage?

Endowments and quasi-endowments, charitable trusts and gift annuities, donor-advised funds, corporate assets, operating cash, building funds, real estate and oil and gas.

What is your investment philosophy?

See Investment Philosophy

What is your investment process?

See Investment Process

Describe the differentiating features of HighGround's investment management process.

OCIO CAPABILITIES: In 1930, HighGround Advisors was an early pioneer in the development of the Outsourced Chief Investment Officer, or OCIO. Remaining within the guiding parameters provided by our client partner, we have the capability and expertise to carry out all investment management functions in a fully discretionary manner for our client partners. HighGround is an experienced provider of nonprofit endowment management, offering a range of solutions based on each client’s needs and resources. Our comprehensive approach takes into consideration factors that extend well beyond portfolio management. Right from the start, we take the time to gain insight into how a client partner functions and what is critical to their success. Because of this strategic collaboration, many of our clients choose to trust us with all their investment needs as their OCIO.

MULTI-MANAGER INVESTING: HighGround’s principal investment approach utilizes a manager-of-managers concept. Currently, HighGround works with over 30 world-class investment managers. In most cases, HighGround elects to utilize multiple managers in a single investment fund with each manager playing a specific role complementary to each other. These managers diversify the fund composition, control investment risks and provide exposure to a broader set of investment opportunities than what might otherwise be available by a single manager approach.

ECONOMIES OF SCALE: The pooling of assets from multiple client partners allows smaller nonprofit clients to access best-in-class investment managers they might not be able to access on their own. A key aspect to this is that we bring access to more competitively priced institutional products, including semi-liquid and illiquid asset classes.

Are you registered with the SEC or a state securities regulator as an investment advisor?

HighGround Advisors is not subject to the regulations imposed on investment companies under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (ICA), and is not required to register as an investment advisor under the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, as amended (IAA). HighGround is excluded from the definition of “investment company” under Section 3(c)(10) of the ICA and is exempt from registration requirements of the IAA pursuant to Section 203(b)(4) of the IAA. HighGround Funds are not required to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to the exemption provided in Section 3(a)(4) of the Securities Act of 1933. 

The exemptions described in the preceding paragraph pre-empt HighGround Advisors from being registered, and, therefore, we do not file a Form ADV Part I or II. However, the exemptions from regulation referenced above do not preclude HighGround or the Funds from being subject to liability for fraud under Section 10(b) and Rule 10b 5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 USCA §78j (a)(2) and 17 CFR § 240.10b-5 (a)).

What safety or liability measures are in place to protect clients?

Although HighGround is exempt from registering with the SEC, we apply many of the same measures that have been put in place by the SEC and other organizations to ensure all client assets are secure and to provide peace of mind to our clients.

First, HighGround has employed The Northern Trust Company to hold the assets in custody for the benefit of all our clients. These assets are held separate and apart from the assets of The Northern Trust Corporation, exclusively for the benefit of the client. The Northern Trust Company keeps all HighGround client assets in various worldwide depositories, and these depositories facilitate the trading and settlement of securities. All positions held within these depositories on behalf of clients are reconciled daily. The most sophisticated reconciliation systems are integrated among the various depositories to ensure all client assets are accounted for each day.

Second, Innovest Systems, the provider of our trust accounting system, furnishes their SOC 1 for annual review. In addition to data backup policies and procedures outlined in the SOC 1, Innovest has formed a risk advisory committee, comprised of senior Innovest personnel and independent fiduciary industry experts, to provide risk management insight on select transactions and best practices.

Third, HighGround Advisors has hired Grant Thornton to perform an annual financial statement audit and SOC 1 examination. The financial statement audit includes a review of the HighGround Funds administered on behalf of clients and the underlying financial transactions that are made. This is to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are free from material misstatement and to test existence and valuation of the assets. The SOC 1 examination tests the effectiveness of HighGround’s internal controls over the HighGround Funds and the underlying processes used to conduct business on behalf of our clients. HighGround’s own internal audit department also performs various checks and verifications of multiple processes throughout the year to ensure the appropriate internal controls are in place. This internal audit function reports directly to the HighGround Board of Directors.

What Funds do you have available?

See Investment Funds

Can you provide additional fund information?

For more information on HighGround Fund's investment objectives, guidelines, strategies, distribution policy, restrictions and general policies regarding the operational aspects of the funds, please contact David Slover at david.slover@highgroundadvisors.org and request a copy of our Fund Disclosure Document.

Does HighGround have a spending/distribution policy?

Yes, for the Capstone, Keystone and Cornerstone Endowment Funds.

How are the Endowment Fund spending policies established and how frequently are they reviewed?

Each Endowment Fund has adopted a distribution policy to manage the distribution of income and capital gains to support the achievement of each Fund’s primary objectives to preserve the long-term purchasing power of the individual Fund’s assets. Additionally, the distribution policy provides flexibility to respond to short-term changes in the capital markets and financial circumstances of investing institutions.

HighGround Capstone and Keystone Endowment Funds’ goal over the long-term is to distribute approximately 5% of the Fund’s average net asset value. It is recognized, however, that as a percentage of net asset value, distributions from year to year may vary from the long-term distribution target. Due to the passive management of the HighGround Cornerstone Endowment Fund, the goal of the Fund is to distribute approximately 4.5% of the Fund’s average net asset value.

HighGround does not follow a specific rule or formula for determining the level of annual cash distributions. Instead, a variety of quantitative and qualitative analysis is performed in setting each Fund’s distributions. The information includes but is not limited to past investment performance, trends in capital market returns, historic, current and projected net asset values (NAV), historical and forecasted average payout rates, current and forecasted economic conditions, the outlook for inflation, and the fiscal environment of each Fund’s investors.

HighGround Advisors formally reviews and sets each Fund’s distribution amount annually, and more frequently if circumstances require. Fund distributions may be drawn from ordinary income (i.e., dividends and interest), capital appreciation or Fund corpus, in compliance with the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act (UPMIFA).

Do you have Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) or Biblically Responsible Investments (BRI)?

HighGround’s Funds are subject to a social investment policy that prohibits investments in companies and businesses that are principally engaged in, or publicly recognized as being principally engaged in, the sale, distribution, production, promotion, or activities related to alcohol, tobacco, gaming services, adult entertainment, abortion or in any company whose mission or purpose is inconsistent with HighGround’s organizational purposes. These restrictions are applied in HighGround’s sole discretion and may preclude the Fund from investing in certain investment opportunities.

Notwithstanding this policy, investments in third-party commingled funds, mutual funds or private investment funds may occur. In these cases, investments are governed by the third-party fund’s investment guidelines. Such third-party guidelines may or may not be consistent with HighGround Advisor’s social policy or other investment policies and guidelines for the Fund.

What does "manager of managers" mean?

HighGround has elected to employ a “manager of managers” approach. As the investment advisor, HighGround may allocate the Asset Class Funds’ investments among multiple investment managers, each of which is responsible for investing the allocated portion of the portfolio according to a pre-determined investment mandate. HighGround continually monitors the performance and operations of the investment managers. HighGround is responsible for the investment construction of the Funds and, as such, makes recommendations of investment managers to the board for review and approval and termination as necessary.

Do you have share classes?

The HighGround Capstone and Keystone Funds have three classes of shares designed to serve the needs of its investors. Share classes are a common way of offering the same investment at different fee levels, reflective of cost efficiencies gained from larger asset sizes. The investment objectives and strategies, portfolio managers and account administration services are the same across all share classes.

The remaining HighGround Fund-of-Funds and Asset Class Funds do not have share classes.

Can your team help create an Investment Policy Statement (IPS)?

Yes, HighGround’s investment team is experienced in developing and enhancing Investment Policy Statements for clients.

Are custody services provided internally or by a third party?

Northern Trust Company (NTC) serves as the custodian of the assets of the HighGround Funds and settles all portfolio trades as directed by the investment managers and HighGround Advisors. As accounting agent, NTC carries out all administrative services related to the Funds, including calculating the Fund’s Net Asset Value (NAV), unit values, income distributions and other distributions. In addition to its other duties as custodian, Northern Trust, pursuant to a Securities Lending agreement, serves as the securities lending agent on behalf of the Funds. Northern Trust also calculates the investment performance for HighGround Funds and the investment performance of the underlying managers.

Founded in Chicago in 1889, Northern Trust has offices in the United States in 19 states and Washington, D.C., 23 international locations in Canada, Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region, and 18,100 employees globally. As of March 31, 2021, NTC had $14.8 trillion in assets under custody.

Do you offer safekeeping services?

Bank of America is HighGround’s partner for treasury management, banking services and safekeeping services, and Matrix Financial Solutions is a third-party administrator of investments in mutual funds.

How do you measure risk of your client’s portfolios? 

Standard deviation, Sharpe ratio, maximum drawdown, tracking error (active risk), beta, interest rate risk (duration), credit quality, other portfolio characteristics including market capitalization, economic sector and regional exposures, market valuation, and portfolio holdings compared to investment fund benchmarks are included in HighGround’s quarterly investment reporting. Market risk factor analysis, risk-adjusted return metrics, value-at-risk and downside scenario analysis, and risk/return attribution can also be included in client reports as requested. To measure and control risk, HighGround uses the following tools: FactSet, eVestment, Bloomberg, Morningstar and StyleADVISOR.

Explain your process in managing and monitoring counterparty risk.

HighGround relies on its investment managers to directly manage investment counterparty risk. Most of HighGround’s exposure to counterparty risk comes through its fixed income funds. As part of the ongoing monitoring of investment portfolios, we regularly review investment managers’ policies with respect to counterparty exposure and approved investment counterparties. HighGround is comfortable that counterparty risk is well-managed within its investment portfolios.

Describe the firm’s process for evaluating a client’s investment performance and how this is communicated to the client.

Once a portfolio is invested, HighGround continually monitors the strategy to ensure it remains appropriate. We manage risk, rebalance portfolios in accordance with a rebalancing policy, monitor the portfolio for adherence to guidelines, measure and report performance, and conduct due diligence and oversight of investment managers within the strategy.

HighGround’s Quarterly Investment Review describes the performance of capital markets for the quarter, including global macro activity that has impacted markets worldwide. This capital market backdrop informs the performance evaluation of client portfolios and HighGround Funds. Further commentary is provided in the Review on which investment styles, market capitalizations and investment managers were the drivers of excess return for the period.

What is HighGround’s view on alternative or private investments inside a diversified portfolio?

We believe alternative investments can play an important role in improving the diversification and risk-adjusted performance of long-term, multi-asset class portfolios. Moreover, we believe the perpetual investment horizon of endowment funds is particularly well-suited to benefit from these strategies.

HighGround generally views the alternative investment universe from a liquidity perspective. Investments in private equity, fixed income and real assets that are made in the private markets offer return premiums associated with the illiquidity and longer-term nature of these investments. Since only a small portion of an endowment fund’s capital is typically needed to meet current spending/distribution and other financial obligations, most endowments are in a good position to earn these return premiums over time. The inclusion of these strategies also improves an endowment fund’s overall investment diversification. As a result, long-term expected investment returns increase and expected risk decreases, improving the endowment fund’s risk-adjusted performance.

HighGround views risk-reduction, not return-enhancement, as the primary role of semi-liquid marketable alternative investments (e.g. hedge funds) in a long-term multi-asset class portfolio. By investing in hedging strategies that provide both long and short investment exposure with low statistical correlation to the traditional equity and fixed income markets, a significant portion of the capital markets’ systematic risk can be eliminated with these strategies, adding a layer of protection during volatile down-market periods. By including a sensible allocation to marketable alternatives, overall portfolio risk can be reduced without sacrificing long-term expected return, further improving an endowment fund’s risk-adjusted performance.

What is your policy on soft dollars?

As a manager of investment managers, HighGround Advisors does not receive any benefit from soft dollars. Where HighGround has hired investment managers for separate account management, some of these managers may receive soft dollars for research and/or other brokerage services that may directly and indirectly benefit client portfolios. HighGround performs a periodic review of each separate account manager’s brokerage practice, which includes soft dollar policies.

Do you receive any 12b-1 fees or other compensation or revenue share from any investments that are or will be contained in our account and, if so, are they used to reduce our costs?

HighGround does not receive any 12b-1 fees, revenue sharing or other compensation in any form from investments in our clients’ portfolio. HighGround’s goal is to render objective, independent and conflict-free investment management services.

What is your firm's position on indexing?

HighGround considers passive index investing as the default option for all asset classes and only employs active management where the likelihood of outperforming the passive option, inclusive of investment fees and expenses, is reasonably high over complete market cycles.

ACCOUNT SUPPORT SERVICES

What is the frequency, format and scheduled delivery date of reports?

  • Quarterly Investment Review: Quarterly, PDF and 4th week after calendar quarter-end
  • Fund Performance: Quarterly or other periodic request, PDF and 10th business day following period-end
  • Sub-Account Level Performance: Quarterly or other periodic request, PDF (account consolidation available) and 4th week after period-end
  • Account Statements: Monthly, Quarterly and/or Annually, PDF and 3 to 5 business days after period-end
  • Consolidated Institutional Statements: Monthly, Quarterly and/or Annually, PDF and Excel, 3 to 5 business days after period-end
  • SOC 1, Type II: Annually, PDF and end of January
  • Financial Statement Audit: Annually, PDF and end of April
  • Income Projections: Annually, Excel and upon request

Can reports be customized?

Yes.

Are any reports available online?

Yes, all reports are posted online as they are made available. Our online portal provides real-time access to daily market values and activity, 24/7.

Can HighGround provide tax reports required by the IRS using data accumulated, maintained and calculated from custody records of the year’s activity for all of the following: 1) 1099R on gift annuities, 2) 1041/1041A, 3) 5227, 4) Schedule K-1, and all supporting schedules D&E (where appropriate) on annuity trusts, unitrusts, lead trusts, and pooled income funds?

Yes, HighGround provides tax reporting for all of the forms listed above. HighGround prepares IRS Form 1099R for each annuitant and can consolidate 1099s when an income beneficiary has multiple gift annuities. Additionally, we provide a formal statement to all unitrust beneficiaries in January to notify them of payment changes.

Is tax reporting handled internally or outsourced to a third party?

Tax reporting is handled internally.

How soon after the end of the year are tax reports available?

1099R reports are available on or before January 31, and K-1s are typically mailed out on or before March 1.

Can you provide an annual statement for each plan beneficiary (with the exception of gift annuities) which lists the year-end plan assets at cost and market, a summary of activity in the plan during the year, and the plan’s balance sheet at year-end?

Yes


Will you provide quarterly statements to trust beneficiaries? If yes, is there an additional cost for this service?

Statements are available on a monthly, quarterly and/or annual basis at no additional charge. Quarterly beneficiary statements are mailed out, generally, no later than the 5th business day. Additionally, our online portal provides immediate access to real-time account balances, transactions and statements.

When are fees calculated and billed?

Fees are calculated monthly and deducted directly from each account.
 

GIFT PLANNING

Do you have in-house legal counsel available to review charitable trust agreements and to advise on matters affecting planned gifts such as changes in tax legislation?

Yes, our legal team has almost 100 years of combined expertise specializing in charitable gift, tax and estate planning. 

Is your staff experienced with advising clients on funding options for life income gifts with complex assets?

HighGround’s in-house legal counsel has extensive experience in planning, drafting and executing life income gifts with complex gifts, such as real property, closely-held stock, mortgages, insurance, retirement plans, annuities, valuable collectibles and oil and gas interests. We have real property and minerals management experts on staff available to work with donors directly.

Is your in-house counsel willing to talk to donors of nonprofit organizations directly?

Yes, HighGround is willing but will follow the direction and desires of our nonprofit clients in responding to and meeting with donors.

Can HighGround help with gifts of minerals and/or real estate?

Yes. Our legal team is backed by both a real estate department and a minerals management team.

Can gifts be accepted and invested at any time (if allowed by the governing documents)?

Yes, gifts can be accepted and invested at any time. Once a gift is received, an acknowledgment letter will be sent to you and the gift will then be included on statements. These statements are provided in PDF and Excel formats to you on the requested frequency (monthly, quarterly and/or annually). Additionally, online account access will be provided to you, which offers immediate access to real-time account balances, transactions and statements.

Will you prepare wills for our donors?

HighGround Advisors cannot draft wills for your donors because it would constitute a conflict of interest. HighGround Advisors will provide testamentary gift language for use by a donor’s attorney to accomplish charitable goals. HighGround Advisors will provide attorney referrals for wills and estate planning proposals upon request.

Does your firm have the ability to administer a gift annuity program and serve as the custodian for gift annuity reserves?

Yes, HighGround Advisors has been administering gift annuity programs and serving as custodian for gift annuity reserves since our establishment in 1930.

DONOR-ADVISED FUNDS

What is a donor-advised fund?

One of the fastest-growing and most flexible giving vehicles, a donor-advised fund (DAF) is a charitable giving account that is sponsored by a public charity (e.g. HighGround Advisors) and funded by a donor’s tax-deductible contributions of cash, stock, mutual funds or other assets. Contributions to a DAF have the potential to grow tax-free over time and donors retain the right to recommend grants from the DAF to eligible charities of their choice.

A DAF is an excellent vehicle for donors who wish to maximize their charitable impact, give in a tax-advantageous way, and streamline the administration of their donations.  

How does it work?

  1. GIVE - Open a HighGround donor-advised fund and make a tax-deductible contribution of cash, securities, or noncash assets.
    Because HighGround Advisors is a public charity, when you contribute to your HighGround DAF, you are eligible for an immediate tax deduction.
  1. GROW - Invest your contribution to grow, tax-free.
    Once you select which professionally managed HighGround investment solution is right for you based on your giving time horizon, your contribution will have the potential to grow tax-free, maximizing your charitable impact.
  1. GRANT - Recommend grants to the qualified U.S. charities of your choice at any time.
    HighGround will perform due diligence, approve grant recommendations, mail the checks to your selected charities, and provide you with one tax receipt at the end of the year, making the giving process easier than ever. 

What are the benefits of opening a DAF?

Donor-Advised Fund Benefits

Why should I open a DAF at HighGround?

HighGround Donor-Advised Benefits

What should I know or read before opening a donor-advised fund at HighGround Advisors?

The HighGround Donor-Advised Fund Program Guide contains all the details you’ll need to know about our DAF Program and should be read before you open a donor-advised fund with us.

Who can open a donor-advised fund?

Individuals, corporations and other business entities, trusts and estates are all eligible to open a donor-advised fund. However, certain charitable organizations exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, like private foundations, are not eligible.

The HighGround DAF Program Guide and online application process is for individual donors. If your corporation or business entity would like to open a DAF, please give us a call. We can also assist you if you wish to establish a DAF as a part of a trust or your estate.

How do I open a donor-advised fund? How long does it take to open a DAF?

Opening a HighGround DAF is easy! After you create an online login, you can fill out the online application, which takes about 10 minutes. Once an application is submitted, the approval process is typically completed within 1 business day. If you have any questions along the way, our Client Partner Communications Specialist is ready to assist you. Click here to get started.

Is there a minimum amount required to open a donor-advised fund?

Yes, a minimum initial contribution of $10,000.00 is necessary to open a DAF for an individual. This can be a combination of cash, securities or other assets.

What fees are associated with a donor-advised fund?

An administrative fee is charged on the market value of the DAF to cover expenses for account set-up, online donor services, tax receipt preparation, compliance and the processing of grant recommendations. 

Additionally, each investment fund bears the cost of investment management and operating expenses, which is deducted daily from the net asset value of the investment fund. These costs are expressed as an expense ratio and are published quarterly. These will vary depending on how the account is invested. Please reference the HighGround DAF Program Guide for more information.

What types of assets can you contribute to a donor-advised fund?  How do I make those contributions?

HighGround accepts both cash and non-cash assets. The most common contributions are cash (checks, wires, ACH, credit cards or electronic checks) and appreciated, publicly-traded securities and mutual funds. Instructions for making these contributions can be found in the HighGround DAF Program Guide and on the online DAF Dashboard. 

Appreciated non-cash assets, such as restricted or non-publicly traded assets, insurance, real estate and mineral interests, are accepted on a case-by-case basis.  Please contact HighGround at dafs@highgroundadvisors.org or 1.800.747.5564, to learn more about making non-cash contributions.

How quickly are contributions processed?

Processing times for contributions vary based upon the asset type. Contributions by check are generally credited to the DAF on the day they are received by HighGround and trades are made in the investment fund(s) the following business day. If received prior to 11:00 am CST, contributions by wire are generally credited to the DAF that day and trades made accordingly. The timeframes noted assume receipt of all necessary documentation in good order from the contributor. Non-cash contributions may take longer to liquidate and may incur additional fees.

Can I withdraw my contribution from my donor-advised fund?

Each contribution to your DAF is an irrevocable donation to HighGround Advisors and, therefore, may not be withdrawn or refunded once accepted.

Can I make additional contributions to my donor-advised fund?

Yes, additional contributions can be made at any time through your online DAF Dashboard. Each additional contribution must be a minimum of $1,000.00.

Do you provide a tax receipt for my contributions?

Yes, in addition to providing a written contribution acknowledgment each time you contribute to your donor-advised fund, HighGround will provide a tax receipt at year-end which details all your contributions to your DAF that year.

Can other people contribute to my DAF?

Yes, friends and family can make tax-deductible contributions to your DAF. A minimum contribution of $25.00 is required. Third-party contributors will receive a contribution acknowledgment from HighGround which serves as their tax receipt. If you would like to make a third-party contribution click here.

Can I transfer money I have in a donor-advised fund with a different sponsoring organization to a donor-advised fund with HighGround?

Yes. While it is ultimately up to the sponsoring organization of your existing donor-advised fund, in most cases, you can transfer all or a portion of your funds to HighGround. If you would like to do so, please call our Client Partner Communications Specialist, Katie Warren, at 214.978.3303, and she will walk you through the simple process.

Please note: Since you received a tax deduction when you originally made the contribution to your existing donor-advised fund, you will not receive another one by transferring the funds to a HighGround DAF.

Can I use the Required Minimum Distribution from my retirement account to fund my DAF?

At age 70 1/2, you must begin withdrawing a required minimum amount annually from your retirement account (unless the account is a Roth IRA). These Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are treated as taxable income. At 70 1/2, you are also eligible to begin making Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs) directly from your retirement account to charity. These QCDs count toward your RMDs but because the funds go directly to charity, QCDs do not incur income tax. 

The IRS does not allow QCDs to be made to DAFs, however, so there is no tax benefit to using your RMD to fund your DAF. Even still, if you receive a distribution from your retirement account (RMD or otherwise) and pay the income tax on the distribution, you may use the remaining cash to fund or contribute to your DAF.

While you cannot make QCDs to your DAF, you can designate your DAF as the beneficiary of certain retirement assets upon your death. By doing so, your heirs and estate will avoid paying taxes on the assets as income and, instead, the entire amount will go directly to charity.

Is there a minimum balance that I need to maintain in my donor-advised fund?

No, although donors are encouraged to review their donor-advised fund regularly and make additional contributions and/or grant recommendations in line with their philanthropic goals and objectives.

How are my assets invested after they are contributed?

HighGround offers 5 investment funds in which donors may invest their DAF contributions to grow tax-free. These investment funds are comprised of underlying asset allocation strategies that are intended to align with the donor’s charitable giving time horizon. Donor Advisors may select up to 2 investment funds for their contributions. The HighGround DAF Program Guide includes more information about these investment options.

How do I make a grant recommendation? How long does it take to process?

Grant recommendations can be made any time and from anywhere by simply logging into your online DAF Dashboard and going to the Make a Grant tab.

All grant recommendations will be subject to HighGround’s grant review and approval process. Typically, grant recommendations will be reviewed and distributed within one to two business days, assuming all requirements are met. Any exceptions or questions that arise from the review will be resolved prior to the grant being approved and processed.

Is there a minimum amount for each grant recommendation?

Yes, each grant recommendation must be a minimum of $250.00.

Are there any restrictions for grant recommendations to a charity?

Yes. Donor-advised funds have restrictions imposed by the IRS to ensure that grants are made exclusively for charitable purposes. Additionally, HighGround will not approve grant recommendations made to organizations whose activities or tax-exempt purposes are inconsistent with HighGround’s governing documents. 

Please review the HighGround DAF Program Guide for additional guidelines.

What are the differences between DAFs and Private Foundations?

Donor-Advised Funds vs. Private Foundations