DAO Tokens: Governance Tokens Matter (with Examples)

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In the rapidly evolving world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) have emerged as a powerful concept in governance. 

At the heart of these DAOs are DAO tokens, which play a crucial role in shaping the decision-making processes within these decentralized communities. 

In this article, we will delve into the meaning and significance of DAO tokens, particularly in the context of decentralized governance.

DAO token purpose 

DAO tokens, often governance tokens, are digital assets issued by decentralized autonomous organizations. These tokens serve multiple purposes within the DAO ecosystem and working mechanisms. They represent ownership and participation rights, enabling token holders to have a say in the organization’s decision-making processes.ย 

DAO tokens also serve as a means of incentivizing and aligning the interests of community members.

Importance of DAO tokens in decentralized governance

DAO tokens are critical in enabling organizations’ decentralization. Here are some key reasons why DAO tokens are of utmost significance:

  1. Decentralized governance: DAO tokens are at the core of governance structures. They enable individuals to collectively make decisions, vote on proposals, and shape the direction of the DAO’s activities.
  2. Transparency and trust: All token holders can view and verify proposals, votes, and outcomes on the blockchain, ensuring trust and accountability within the DAO ecosystem.
  3. Incentivization: DAO tokens incentivize participants to contribute their time, skills, and resources to the DAO. By aligning the community’s interests, 
  4. Democratization of power: DAO tokens enable individuals from all walks of life to have a voice in an organization’s governance. This inclusivity promotes diversity, avoids centralized control, and allows for a more democratic power distribution.
  5. Innovation and adaptability: By giving token holders voting rights, DAOs can swiftly adapt to new circumstances and embrace innovative solutions without requiring lengthy bureaucratic processes.

In the following sections, we will explore different types of DAO tokens, how they are minted and distributed, their role in voting mechanisms, and the regulatory considerations surrounding them.

Types of DAO Tokens

DAO tokens come in various forms, each serving specific functions within the decentralized autonomous organization.

 Let’s explore the main types of DAO tokens:

Governance Tokens

Governance tokens are the backbone of DAOs, as they grant holders the right to participate in decision-making processes and shape the organization’s direction. Critical characteristics of governance tokens include:

  • Voting rights: Holders can vote on proposals, such as protocol upgrades, funding allocation, or changes to governance parameters.
  • Governance rewards: Some DAOs incentivize active participation by offering rewards to token holders who actively engage in voting or contribute to the community.
  • Staking and delegation: In some instances, governance tokens can be staked or delegated to other participants, allowing voting power and potential rewards to be delegated.

Utility Tokens

Utility tokens are DAO tokens that provide access to specific products or services within the ecosystem. They typically have a clear use case and are required to interact with the DAO’s platform. Essential features of utility tokens include:

  • Access rights: Holders need utility tokens to access and utilize certain features, services, or resources the DAO offers.
  • Usage incentives: DAOs may offer discounts, bonuses, or other incentives to encourage the use of utility tokens within their ecosystem.
  • Limited supply: Utility tokens are often designed with a fixed or capped supply, ensuring their scarcity and value within the ecosystem.

Reward Tokens

DAOs use reward tokens to incentivize community members for their contributions and engagement. These tokens are typically distributed as a form of recognition to foster loyalty and motivation. Notable aspects of reward tokens include:

  • Contribution-based rewards: DAOs distribute reward tokens to individuals who provide value to the ecosystem through activities like content creation, bug reporting, or community building.
  • Alignment of interests: Reward tokens align the interests of community members with the growth and success of the DAO, encouraging ongoing participation and collaboration.
  • Vesting schedules: To ensure long-term commitment, reward tokens are often subject to vesting schedules that gradually unlock the tokens over a specific period.

Fungible and Non-fungible Tokens

DAO tokens can be further categorized as either fungible or non-fungible:

  • Fungible tokens: These are identical and interchangeable tokens that can be subdivided into smaller units. They can be traded, exchanged, or used interchangeably within the DAO ecosystem. Examples include governance tokens with equal voting power.
  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs): NFTs are unique tokens that represent ownership of a specific asset or digital item. In the context of DAOs, NFTs can be used for membership, access to exclusive content, or representation of rare digital collectibles.

Note: DAOs can issue a single token used in governance and everything else (e.g., Ethereum organization with ETH). Multiple tokens, depending on project tokenomics strategy (e.g., MakerDAO with two tokens: MKR for governance and DAI as projects currency/stablecoin). Or a combination of tokens and NFTs if DAO wants to create a smaller working group within the organization (e.g., the Optimism project has Token House and Citizens’ House divisions).  

In the following sections, we will explore how DAO tokens are minted, their supply dynamics, distribution methods, and their significance in voting mechanisms within DAOs.

DAO Token Minting (Creation)

Why DAOs create tokens 

DAOs create tokens for several reasons, each serving specific objectives within the decentralized organization. 

Some common objectives include:

  • Governance and decision-making: Tokens provide voting rights and ownership stakes, allowing token holders to actively shape the DAO’s governance decisions.
  • Community engagement and incentivization: Tokens incentivize community members to contribute their time, resources, and expertise to the DAO. They align the interests of participants and foster engagement.
  • Fundraising and capital formation: DAOs may create tokens to raise capital to fund their projects and operations. Token sales or offerings allow individuals to invest in the DAO and support its growth.
  • Gate access to the community: DAOs often utilize access tokens to control platform entry, such as Discord servers, forums, or exclusive content. Tools like and enables DAOs to set token gates for fungible and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
  • Distributing profits: DAOs may distribute a portion of their profits or revenue to token holders as a form of profit-sharing. This objective allows participants to directly benefit from the success and financial performance of the DAO, creating an additional incentive for holding and engaging with the tokens.

By creating tokens with specific objectives, DAOs can establish an ecosystem that promotes participation, inclusivity, and financial alignment among its community members.

Creating DAO tokens

The creation of DAO tokens typically involves the following steps:

  1. Designing token economics: DAOs determine the characteristics of their tokens, such as total supply, inflationary or deflationary mechanisms, distribution models, and token utility within the ecosystem.
  2. Smart contract development: DAO tokens are often implemented as smart contracts on blockchain platforms. These contracts define the token’s functionalities, including transferability, voting rights, and potential rewards.
  3. Token standard selection: DAOs choose a token standard that best suits their needs. Popular standards include ERC-20 (Ethereum), BEP-20 (Binance Smart Chain), and SPL (Solana). These standards ensure compatibility and ease of integration with existing infrastructure.

Token minting process and mechanisms

Token minting refers to creating new tokens within the DAO ecosystem. The minting process can vary depending on the DAO’s design and the underlying blockchain technology. Some common mechanisms for token minting include:

  • Initial token allocation: DAOs often allocate a portion of tokens to specific entities, such as founders, early contributors, or strategic partners. These tokens are typically distributed as an initial allocation to bootstrap the ecosystem.
  • Mining or staking: DAOs may employ mining or staking mechanisms to mint new tokens. Miners or stakers contribute their computing power or lock their tokens in a smart contract, earning new tokens as a reward.
  • Inflationary mechanisms: Some DAOs have inflationary token models where new tokens are minted periodically to incentivize participation, maintain liquidity, or fund ongoing development.
  • Community proposals: DAOs may allow the community to propose and vote on the minting of new tokens. This ensures decentralized decision-making and encourages active involvement from token holders.

Understanding the minting process and the objectives behind token creation is crucial for grasping the dynamics of DAO token economies. In the following sections, we will explore the supply dynamics of DAO tokens, their distribution methods, and their role in voting mechanisms within DAOs.

DAO Token Supply

The supply dynamics of DAO tokens play a crucial role in their value, scarcity, and overall ecosystem. 

Let’s explore the main types of token supply commonly found in DAOs:

  • Fixed Supply Tokens have a predetermined and limited number of tokens that will ever be minted. 
  • Inflationary Tokens have a dynamic supply that can increase over time.
  • Deflationary Tokens have a decreasing token supply over time, often achieved through token burns or locked tokens. 

The choice of token supply dynamics is an essential design decision for DAOs, as it directly impacts factors such as token value, distribution, and long-term sustainability. 

The following sections will explore different token distribution methods and their role in voting mechanisms within DAOs.

DAO Token Distribution

DAOs employ various methods to distribute tokens within their ecosystem. Let’s explore some common approaches to token distribution:

Initial Distribution

The initial distribution of DAO tokens involves allocating a portion of tokens to specific entities or individuals. This helps bootstrap the ecosystem and ensures a diverse community of stakeholders. 

Initial token distribution usually goes to:

  • Founders and team allocation
  • Early contributors and strategic partners

Token Sales and Offerings

DAOs often conduct token sales or offerings to raise capital and expand their community. These sales can take various forms and provide opportunities for individuals to acquire tokens. 

Some standard methods include:

  • Initial Coin Offering (ICO)
  • Initial DEX Offering (IDO)
  • Token swaps

Airdrops and Token Grants

Airdrops and token grants are methods employed by DAOs to distribute tokens as a means of community engagement and incentivization. These methods allow individuals to receive tokens without a direct financial transaction. 

Here’s a breakdown of these approaches:

  • Airdrops: People get tokens for free to individuals who meet specific criteria or hold a particular cryptocurrency in their wallets. 
  • Token grants: Awards given to individuals or projects that contribute value to the ecosystem. 

By employing various distribution methods, DAOs can attract a diverse community, foster engagement, and ensure wider token ownership. In the next section, we will explore the role of DAO tokens in voting mechanisms and their significance in decentralized governance.

DAO Tokens and Voting Mechanisms

Voting is fundamental to decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), empowering token holders to participate in decision-making. Through voting, DAOs achieve consensus, determine the organization’s direction, and make critical governance decisions.ย 

Different voting mechanisms used by DAOs

DAOs employ various voting mechanisms to facilitate fair and efficient decision-making. Each mechanism has its unique characteristics and may be suitable for different decisions. Here are some common voting mechanisms used in DAOs:

  • Token-based quorum voting is a mechanism in which token holders cast their votes based on the number of tokens they own. A minimum quorum or participation threshold is often required for the vote to be valid.
  • Quadratic voting assigns a quadratic relationship between the number of tokens held by an individual and their voting power. It allows for more nuanced voting and reduces the influence of large token holders, promoting fairness.
  • Conviction voting introduces a dynamic and time-weighted voting system. Token holders can continuously update and distribute their voting power based on their conviction levels regarding a proposal. This mechanism encourages token holders to consider the long-term impact of their decisions.
  • Holographic consensus combines individual voting with signaling mechanisms to gauge the overall sentiment of the community. Token holders can express preferences through signaling before the final vote, providing valuable insights and fostering consensus.
  • Multi-signature (multi-sig) voting involves designated individuals or entities holding multiple keys to authorize a decision. This mechanism ensures collective decision-making by requiring a predefined number of key holders to approve or reject proposals.

Role of DAO tokens in voting decisions

DAO tokens play a pivotal role in voting decisions. They represent ownership and participation rights within the DAO ecosystem. 

Here’s how DAO tokens contribute to the voting process:

  • Voting power: The number of tokens an individual holds determines their voting power. Token holders with a higher token balance have a more significant influence on the vote outcome.
  • Governance stake: DAO tokens often represent a governance stake, granting holders the ability to shape the direction and policies of the organization. This stake provides an incentive for token holders to participate in voting actively.
  • Decision legitimacy: The distribution of voting power based on token ownership helps establish a fair and legitimate decision-making process. It ensures that decisions align with the collective preferences of the token holder community.

In the next section, we will explore the regulatory considerations surrounding DAO tokens and their classification as securities by the SEC.

SEC Regulations and DAO Tokens

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulates securities in the United States. The SEC has closely monitored the evolving landscape of cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based assets, including DAO tokens. 

Here’s an overview of the SEC’s stance on DAO tokens:

  • Security classification: The SEC believes specific DAO tokens may be classified as securities under existing securities laws. This classification subjects the tokens and their issuers to specific regulatory requirements.
  • Regulatory scrutiny: The SEC has increased its scrutiny of initial coin offerings (ICOs) and token sales to ensure compliance with securities laws. DAOs issuing tokens must navigate regulatory requirements carefully to avoid potential legal repercussions.

Factors determining whether DAO tokens are considered securities

The SEC considers several factors when determining whether DAO tokens should be classified as securities. While no definitive list exists, these factors help evaluate the characteristics of the tokens and their compliance with securities laws. 

Key factors include:

  • Investment of money: If individuals invest in a DAO with the expectation of future profits or returns, it increases the likelihood of the tokens being classified as securities.
  • Shared enterprise: If the fortunes of token holders are linked to the success or failure of the DAO and its efforts, it suggests the presence of a joint enterprise, which is a factor in securities classification.
  • The expectation of profits: If token holders anticipate profits primarily from the efforts of others, such as the DAO’s developers or management, it may indicate that the tokens should be treated as securities.
  • Decentralization: The level of decentralization within the DAO’s governance and decision-making processes can also impact the SEC’s determination. A higher degree of decentralization may decrease the likelihood of securities classification.

Implications for DAO token issuers and investors

The classification of DAO tokens as securities by the SEC carries significant implications for both token issuers and investors:

  • Compliance obligations: If DAO tokens are deemed securities, issuers must comply with securities laws, including registration requirements or exemptions. This involves filing necessary disclosures, providing investor protection measures, and complying with anti-fraud provisions.
  • Investor protections: Securities classification may provide certain investor protections, such as disclosure requirements and recourse in case of fraudulent activities or misconduct by the DAO.
  • Legal and financial risks: Non-compliance with securities laws can result in significant legal and financial risks for DAOs and their token issuers. Issuers must seek legal advice to ensure compliance with applicable regulations.
  • Investor due diligence: Investors should conduct thorough due diligence when considering investments in DAO tokens. Understanding the regulatory status of the tokens and assessing the risks associated with securities classification is essential for making informed investment decisions.

Navigating the regulatory landscape is essential for DAOs and participants in the crypto space to maintain compliance and build trust. It is recommended that both issuers and investors seek legal counsel to ensure compliance with relevant securities laws.

Finally, in the last section, we will list some popular DAO tokens that have gained prominence in the crypto community.

Top DAO Tokens 

The crypto space has seen the rise of many DAO projects and prominent DAO tokens that have gained significant popularity and adoption. These tokens enable participants to engage in decentralized governance and decision-making.ย 

List of top 10 notable DAO projects and tokens 

  1. Maker (MKR): MKR holders can vote for critical decisions, such as adjusting stability fees and managing collateral types within the MakerDAO ecosystem.
  2. Aragon (ANT): ANT token holders have voting rights and governance control within the Aragon platform, allowing them to influence the development and direction of decentralized organizations.
  3. DAOstack (GEN): GEN token holders possess governance rights within the DAOstack ecosystem, enabling them to influence decision-making processes and shape the trajectory of decentralized organizations.
  4. (YFI): YFI is the governance token of the Yearn ecosystem, allowing holders to propose and vote on changes to the protocol.
  5. Compound (COMP): COMP is the governance token of the Compound protocol, enabling token holders to propose and vote on changes to the lending and borrowing platform.
  6. Uniswap (UNI): UNI is the governance token of the Uniswap decentralized exchange, granting holders voting rights and access to platform upgrades and protocol parameters.
  7. Synthetix (SNX): SNX is the collateral and governance token for the Synthetix decentralized synthetic asset protocol.
  8. Aave (AAVE): AAVE is the governance token of the Aave lending and borrowing platform, giving holders voting rights and control over platform upgrades.
  9. Curve Finance (CRV): CRV is the governance token of the Curve Finance stablecoin exchange, providing holders with voting rights and rewards.
  10. SushiSwap (SUSHI): SUSHI is the governance and reward token of the SushiSwap decentralized exchange, offering holders voting rights and a share of platform fees.

Please note that the crypto space is dynamic, and new DAO tokens may emerge while the prominence of existing tokens can change over time. Conduct thorough research and consider each token’s specific features, use cases, and risks before engaging.


DAO tokens play a pivotal role in decentralized governance, providing individuals with the means to actively participate in decision-making and shape the direction of various decentralized autonomous organizations. 

Understanding the different types of DAO tokens, their minting process, supply dynamics, distribution methods, voting mechanisms, regulatory implications, and notable examples in the market is crucial for anyone interested in exploring their potential.

Article by
Artem Minaev