Intermediaries are a hot topic in philanthropy—and for good reason. In October 2016,the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual list of the world's biggest charities caused ripples when Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund—a charity that hosts donor-advised funds (DAFs), a type of intermediary—knocked longtime #1 United Way Worldwide off the top. As intermediaries grow, many across the sector are asking questions about what they do and whether their growth is good. These are important questions to ask, and not simple ones to answer—in part because the term "intermediary" encompasses many different types of organizations serving many different purposes.

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