The age of DAOs is only just beginning, but a good way to gauge current progress in DAO governance is to look at the top ones: how they manage their treasury, what kinds of proposals they are making and passing, how active the community is, and so on. Let’s look at the Top 10 DAOs, as ranked by DeepDAO.
Token holders: 355.1k
Voters (lifetime): 21.1k
Votes cast: 100.1k
The main asset in Uniswap’s treasury is their own UNI token, with tiny amounts of tokens such as BlueSparrow, Collar, FNT, CQB, etc.
Uniswap is the first popular — and still the biggest — AMM. Now on V3 and expanding from Ethereum to Polygon, Arbitrum, Optimism, and Celo, it’s the token swap others benchmark against. From surviving Sushisap’s vampire attack to its current position in a very competitive field, Uniswap wants to be the one swap to trade them all.
As such, it’s no wonder that Uniswap has the largest treasuries of all DAOs and a sizable number of token holders. Established in 2019, it has actively been a DAO since September 2022.
Some of the most viewed proposals were on whether UNI should become an oracle token (48.8k views), on excluding proxy contract users from an airdrop (31.5k), and on deploying V3 of Uniswap to Polygon’s PoS chain (28.8k). Uniswap uses Snapchat for off-chain proposal discussion and its own Governance Portal for on-chain voting.
A big discussion going on in Uniswap DAO is about a “fee switch” that would basically allocate some of the fees the protocol pays to liquidity providers to other uses of the DAO, to be decided by the DAO members. Thus, Uniswap DAO is taking rather seriously its sizable treasury and its development. Members are also discussing specific uses of the treasury such as setting up a DeFi education fund, structuring fee rewards, which liquidity pools are eligible to rewards, etc.
Still, even in this biggest and most prominent DAO, less than 6% of token holders have voted even once on a proposal.
Token holders: 20.8k
Voters (lifetime): 333
Votes cast: 1.9k
BitDAO’s treasury holds 65.6% of its BIT governance token, 17.7% ETH, 12.3% USDC, 3.9% USDT, 0.3% of FTT, and tiny amounts of other tokens.
BitDAO was created by the ByBit DEX and a launch auction. Its stated aim is the support of builders in the decentralized economy via grants and partnerships. At this time, the majority of BIT is still held by the ByBit exchange-affiliated wallets (both institutional and private).
The voting is done off-chain using Gnosis Safe and Snapshot, though an on-chain governance model is planned for the future. Bit DAO’s treasury derives its income from investments, research lab work, and various swap and yield strategies. ByBit also has a permanent endowment established for BitDAO.
Most BitDAO proposals receive 100% votes either for or against, or very close to 100%. Despite having a treasury only slightly smaller than Uniswap DAO and nearly 21,000 token holders, only 333 voters ever voted in just 22 proposals.
This makes one question just how much is BitDAO actually a DAO. For example, the vote, in September 2021, to lower the minimum threshold for submitting a proposal from the current amount of 10M BIT (~$4M USD) received 100% of the votes in favor of the option to lower it to 2M BIT. And yet, the number of proposals is still minimal.
Similarly, in a vote to adjust BIP repurchasing amounts, 148M BIT was voted with for “yes” while only 5 BIT for “no” — though another possible explanation is that the community is somehow able to come to near-perfect consensus about the proposal before it is finalized.
Token holders: 60.7k
Voters (lifetime): 87.2k
Votes cast: 111.1k
ENS DAO treasury is 94.1% its governance ENS token, 5.7% ETH, and small amounts of other tokens.
ENS protocol is the leading decentralized naming protocol for Ethereum-based wallets, domains, etc. It is behind the rise of the popular .eth domains represented by NFTs and attachable to ETH wallets. This could be central to avatar identity throughout Web3 and even Web2.
There is a constitution of sorts specifying the rules of the ENS DAO governance. It can only be changed by a two/thirds majority vote with the minimum quorum of holders of at least 1% of all ENS tokens participating in the vote.
ENS DAO also uses Snapshot off-chain for proposals, though executes votes on-chain via a Compound Governor smart contract. Voting shows healthy activity in such proposals as the one to select Meta-Governance Working Group stewards, where in an approval voting type, candidates received anywhere from 69.51% approval vote all the way down to 25.59%.
Even though it only had 54 proposals so far, the number of voters exceeds the number of current token holders (signaling either a high engagement rate, a large number of holders selling their tokens, or both).
Token holders: 16.6k
Voters (lifetime): 5.1k
Votes cast: 33.4k
Gnosis DAO’s treasury consists 97.8% of its GNO governance token, with 0.5% of cDAI, and a tiny amount of other tokens, especially ones representing staked tokens.
Of the many DeFi instruments Gnosis builds, the most known and used one is the Gnosis Safe, a multi-sig wallet smart contract used by many DAOs in their operations. It also created and operates the Gnoses L2 blockchain with xDAI as the stablecoin and GNO as the governance token. Gnosis also operates a DEX and creates tokens for prediction markets.
Gnosis DAO uses Snapchat for proposals. Its community is quite active and not unanimous in decisions, unlike with some other DAOs on this list. For example, a proposal to allow sGNO holders to vote and be included in upcoming airdrops has received a nearly equal number of “no” and “abstain” votes with a smaller number of “yes” votes.
Gnosis is active in using grants to incentivize the growth of DeFi and forge useful partnerships, each voted on individually via proposals. One recent proposal passed nearly unanimously to pass a grant and partner with Gateway.fm, while another to give a grant to Pluser was rejected.
There are, however, only 16.6k GNO holders. And less than a 3rd of them ever voted.
Token holders: 255
Voters (lifetime): 38.8k
Votes cast: 85.9k
Wonderland DAO’s governance token, wMEMO, does not constitute a significant portion of its treasury (and is an expensive one to hold at nearly $28k/coin). So its treasury consists of a number of mostly stablecoins and derivatives: 27.7% uUSDT, 21.6% uDAI, 19.2% each of variable debt USDT/DAI, 6.2% of DAI, and a number of smaller cryptos.
Wonderland invests mostly in early-stage crypto projects with the aim of growing its treasury via successful investment. As such, it may be viewed as a decentralized Angel/VC firm with a focus on crypto.
The most active votes are governance related, such as defining a specific DAO leader’s role, introducing treasury operators, MOD compensation, etc. Wonderland DAO seems to have significant discussions about treasury management and funds allocation.
Of course, a DAO with only 255 members and a high price of entry is setting itself up to be on the more exclusive side (not that there is anything inherently wrong with that).
Token holders: 26.1k
Voters (lifetime): 4.3k
Votes cast: 32.4k
The governance token, LDO, comprises 77.3% of the treasury holdings, with 11.6% in ETH, 8.4% in DAI, 2.7% stETH, and a minute amount of various other coins.
LIDO DAO is the liquid staking solution with major staker backers that allows for staking ETH in the PoS protocol with any amount of ETH staked, overcoming the large ETH requirement for staking in a full node.
It also has a grants organization (LEGO) aimed at promoting liquid staking in crypto. LEGO awarded over $500k in grants already.
Lido’s proposals are first discussed in the forum and then voted on using Snapchat off-chain and/or Aragon on-chain. The DAO elects various committees for streamlined governance.
Proposals concern all kinds of DAO matters, from authorizing treasury payments to adding node operators and other governance decisions. The majority of proposals seem to receive 100% vote, most often a “yes” — the ones that are rejected are usually rejected for failing to reach the minimum quorum of voters.
Token holders: 7.9k
Voters (lifetime): 9.2k
Votes cast: 48.3k
OlympusDAO’s treasury mainly consists of various stablecoins and LP tokens: 49.7% DAI, 15.5% FRAX, 14.3% each of HM-WETH and HM-DAI, 3.4% OHM, and a number of smaller holdings.
OHM is the crypto created by OlympusDAO for the purpose of being a Web3-native crypto that is not pegged to a fiat currency yet supported by at least $1/OHM of OlympusDAO’s treasury assets (though it’s not clear how OlympusDAO can guarantee that the treasury will always have at least $1 worth of assets for every OHM in circulation). In any case, OHM’s longevity and viability as a global reserve currency is the goal of OlympusDAO.
Like most others on this list, OlympusDAO uses Snapshot for voting. Most proposals are approved, usually with near 100% “yes” votes. Among the few ranked choice ones (e.g. sending DAI to 3 Watermelons Research for whitehat success in finding exploits), there is more tendency to reject the proposal than the more binary ones.
Proposal topics range from treasury management to general governance to partnerships and more. There are more lifetime voters than token holders, though neither breaking 10k. The DAO seems pretty active with over 200 proposals already under its belt.
Token holders: 13.4k
Voters (lifetime): 21?
Votes cast: 954
Aragon’s treasury is dominated by Ethereum and stablecoins with 45.8% ETH, 28.4% USDC, and 12.6% DAI. It also has 8.9% of its governance token ANT in the treasury.
It’s fitting for Aragon DAO to be on this list since it is itself a DAO builder with no-code open-source infrastructure, governance plug-ins, an app, and various add-ons. Which makes it especially interesting to see how Aragon DAO handles its own governance.
In its over 2.5 years of existence, Aragon DAO has already had 577 proposals submitted by members for voting (the highest on this list by far). Aragon uses its proprietary voting platform called Voice. While sleek, it is at first glance confusing to see which votes are important because they are shown in a minimalist “button” way without results or any other statistics.
DeepDAO has the number of Aragon DAO’s lifetime voters as 21 (not 21k, 21 people), which seems shocking for a DAO-builder DAO. Yet looking at, for example, a proposal to regularly fund a sub-DAO where there were only 5 votes and ❤10 ANT voted with (just over $600) makes one wonder if DeepDAO was actually correct. In fact, a budget proposal got exactly 21 votes. Certainly, it has a lot of tools for DAO builders — but how it implements them is cloudy at best.
Token holders: 1.2M
Voters (lifetime): 46?
Votes cast: 2.2k
Polkadot’s treasury consists 100% of its DOT governance token.
One of the OGs of DeFi, Polkadot is a fully-sharded, layer 0 blockchain technology on top of which L1 chains (parachains) can be built. They would then use Polkadot’s central Relay Chain for security and stacks.
Polkadot has a somewhat complex and outward-looking (broad protocol-level changes to the system) governance system that utilizes both Referenda and an on-chain elected Council (though the public may also make proposals). The Council basically serves as a group of validators to manage the treasury and keep any malicious proposal from being passed to the DAO’s harm.
Polkadot’s voting is on-chain, using a browser extension. This may somewhat hold back less tech-savvy holders. It also makes it harder to see voting history (and thus to check if it really was just 46 lifetime voters casting 2.2k votes — out of 1.2 million token holders).
Some of the proposals are pretty fundamental, like the one on Polkadot’s identity and logo. Interestingly, Polkadot employs quadratic voting, a method considered by many to be more democratic as it gives more voting power to a larger group of voters rather than to a few voters with a lot of votes (power of the people vs power of the whales, so to speak).
10. Frax Finance
Token holders: 10.9k
Voters (lifetime): 1.2k
Votes cast: 7.4k
Frax’ treasury consists almost entirely of its own tokens: FXS (governance token, 77.3%), FSIS (22.1%), and FRX (0.5%).
Much like OlympusDAO, Frax is focused on stablecoins. In the great debate between stablecoins backed by collateral and ones backed up algorithmically, Frax decided to split the difference and have both. Besides the stablecoins, Frax has an AMM and a lending facility (which makes sense for a DeFi project).
Frax DAO votes via Snapchat, but also has a special Compound Governor contract, though it has not yet had to get activated. Less than 10% of token holders have ever voted, but the number of proposals is pretty decent at over 200 so far.
Many votes get near-100% vote in favor of one of the options, though not all. For example, the proposal to make Frax pool on of the base ones on KyberSwap passed with only a 54%/44% decision. Much of the voting deals with trading pairs and parameters. Of course, not all the proposals are trading/technical in nature. One is even about using treasury funds to consult with an attorney re: another protocol (FEI) that some Frax DAO members feel has de facto defrauded Frax and others.
This list has an impressive list of DAOs doing important things in DeFi. Most exhibit some DAO characteristics. With that being said, the biggest glaring hole in these DAOs is how inactive each DAO is compared to the potential of DAOs, especially evident when the DAO-builder, Aragon, seems to have just a handful of voters and a cloudy voting results page.
A truly effective DAO has its members wanting to submit many good, thought-through proposals that will not automatically get 100% “yes” votes, that will move the DAO forward in big, meaningful ways, and that will happen on-chain in a UI that makes it clear for DAO members and outsiders what is actually going on in the DAO’s governance and why one may want to get involved.
Why are so few DAO members voting? What actually makes these top “DAOs” Decentralized Autonomous Organizations?
The DeXe DAO Fund way
Some of the above organizations have great ideas that could be applied to all DAOs. And DeXe’s upcoming DAO Fund’s builder does that. For example, it has the option of creating validators much like Polkadot’s Council (but with the ability to create separate validator voting tokens and flexible settings for them).
The key innovation in the DeXe DAO Fund is to create an incentive structure that rewards effective DAO participation (from proposal submission to voting to the execution of passed proposals). It creates an easy, on-chain mechanism for creating and governing any DAO, including choosing any token and/or NFT to govern the DAO (or creating a token on the spot).
DAO members can use the power of the treasury to reward governance, create initiatives, and even interact with other DeFi protocols via smart contracts.
One of the big problems in encouraging meaningful proposals and voting is in the rigid and confusing voting quorums. Which is why DeXe’s solution provides a lot of flexibility in both the quorum and voting length for different proposal types.
DAOs work when DAO members can see that their participation matters and is rewarding both in the immediate and long-term time frame. Uniswap, Polkadot, Lido et al are big names in DeFi. But if DAOs were ranked by activity and effectiveness rather than by mere treasury size, the Top 10 would look much different. Few DAOs would even pass the threshold of effective DAO activity. Though it looks like change is on the way with protocols like DeXe.