Charitable gifts have seen “historic declines” in 2009, for the second year in a row – that’s the academic version of “OMG, it’s scary out there.” Giving USA rates the decline at 3.2% (down to $303 billion in total gifts for 2009). “Chronicle of Philanthropy” reported an 11% drop for the biggest 400 charities in the US. The Foundation Center listed a 8.4% drop among the country’s grant-making foundations.

And yet. And yet: A new study, the 2010 Donor Advised Fund Report, released by the National Philanthropic Trust, finds that Donor Advised Funds (DAFs) just keep on keeping on.

Like other charitable vehicles, DAF assets, contributions & grants were down.

HOWEVER: the number of DAFs jumped by 3%, and total DAF accounts now are over 150,000.

PLUS: Grant dollars from DAFs to charities hit $6 billion, actually more than the $5.9 billion contributed to DAFs last year.

It would seem that not only are grassroots, individual and middle-class philanthropists overtaking established foundations and multigenerational and multifamily office wealth, but increasingly, people who give are choosing greater transparency and immediate impact for their gifts.

DAFs can avoid lots of the folderol, RFPs, paperwork and tax headaches cause the administering organization, like a community foundation or the NPT itself, does the back-office work for you.

All you need to do is decide where your money will do the most good.

That is the power of one.