11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2018

11 trends:

1. Giving More by Giving Together: The Johnson Center’s W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair Jason Franklin has conducted significant research on collaborative giving, including as part of a research team that recently released a report on giving circles. He anticipates seeing the growth of more democratized and diversified philanthropy. Franklin said giving circles and other collaborative giving groups have tripled in number since 2007 and that number is expected to grow.

2. Next Gen Donors and the “Golden Age of Giving”: Gen-Xers and Millennials with the capacity for making major gifts will likely become the most significant generation of philanthropists in history, according to Michael Moody, Frey Foundation Chair for Family Philanthropy at the Johnson Center. Moody said these generations will be significant because they will have both unprecedented amounts of wealth to give along with a zeal for revolutionizing philanthropy through new strategies and innovations that are shaking up the field. Examples include the charitable LLC.

Interested in our trends report for 2017? Find it here.

3. The Globalization of Philanthropy: Most giving is local and will remain so for a long time, according to Franklin and Moody, but there is a trend toward shared, formal philanthropic spaces that cross international borders in an increasingly connected world.

4. Defining Progress with Place-Based Philanthropy: A trend noted in the Johnson Center’s 2017 report carries over to 2018, as funders of particular projects are tending to focus more on organizations and goals that are specific to a geographic area. Teri Behrens, director of the Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning at the Johnson Center, said the complexity of creating measurable change on an issue at a national level can be daunting. Increasingly, funders are seeking to be more strategic in their giving by focusing on a specific area, thereby increasing the probability of making a change and being able to measure it.

5. Philanthropy’s Quest for Equity: Huge demographic shifts are taking place in the United States that will require the development of new tools and strategies that will allow the field of philanthropy to effectively address equity issues and impact change. According to Johnson Center Leadership Council member Juan Olivarez, these shifts will have profound ramifications for local communities and the national landscape if equity in access to health, education and the workforce is not achieved.

6. Inclusivity Means Asking the Right Questions: Data-informed decision making is becoming an ever-stronger practice in philanthropy, but nonprofits, funders and evaluators are paying more attention to how data is collected and making sure that collection, analysis and dissemination methods promote inclusivity and take cultural differences into account. Jodi Petersen, director of the Johnson Center’s Community Research Institute, along with Franklin, said that only when these efforts are in place is it reasonable to expect effective actions and real impact for marginalized communities, as data will finally reflect the experiences they face.

7. Data to What End?: Petersen also said that data is a critical factor in informing funders as well as next-generation donors. Impact is a driving desire, but a request for deep data without funding and adequate organizational capacity can be challenging for some nonprofits. The trend this year is helping donors “right-size” data inquiry for effective measurement without overtaxing organizations.

8. New Frameworks for Evaluating Impact: A trend for 2018 is a new approach to the evaluation of results on complex issues that involve many community players, systems or organizations. Developmental evaluation has grown significantly, Behrens said, and can help meet the information needs of people who are seeking to be innovative in addressing very complex situations.

9. A Growing Commitment to Building Nonprofit Capacity: The desire for a more diverse and inclusive nonprofit sector is driving a trend toward increasing investment in nonprofit capacity with an aim of achieving greater impact. Behrens and Franklin said there is a push for foundations to direct more financial support to the infrastructure of the sector itself to increase service capacity and efficiency measures.

10. Governments and Nonprofits: New Partnerships or Paradigm Shifts?: Kyle Caldwell, executive director of the Johnson Center, said there is an increasing trend toward nonprofit and government partnerships evolving from working on similar issues independently, to working together or in place of one another on issues. This trend is due to an explicit and implied expectation shift between government and philanthropy.

11. How Repealing the Johnson Amendment Could Change the Game for Nonprofits: A recently proposed repeal of the Johnson Amendment could change how society at large views the laws that govern nonprofits and ensure they operate within critical legal boundaries essential to maintaining trust. Caldwell and Matthew Downey, program director of Nonprofit Services at the Johnson Center said that the Johnson Amendment, which prohibits any activity that expresses support for or opposition to a candidate running for political office, is critical to maintaining public trust. A repeal could change philanthropy in four ways, including: a) making nonprofits that lobby for public policy change vulnerable to claims of partisanship; b) allowing “dark campaign funding” to invade the nonprofit sector; c) reducing the lines between separation of church and state; and d) increasing the danger that politicians might use nonprofit organizations in their campaigning to avoid disclosing their donors.

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January 2018

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Teri Behrens, Jason Franklin, Kyle Caldwell, Michael Moody, Matthew Downey, Juan Olivarez, and Jodi Peterson



History, Role in Society