5 Trends in Giving That Will Reshape Philanthropy in 2017

January 24, 2017 Susan McPherson

This article was originally published on npENGAGE

2016 was a record-setting year for philanthropy, with Americans donating more than $373 billion and communities across the globe setting new standards for #GivingTuesday. Even better news? The Philanthropy Outlook from the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy projects a 3.6 percent rise in overall giving in 2017, and another 3.8 percent in 2018.

We know 2017 is shaping up to be an epic year for philanthropy.

Here are five trends to look out for – and tips for how your organization can leverage them.

Big bumps for progressive causes

In the weeks following the 2016 election, Planned Parenthood reported receiving donations at “40 times its normal rate.” According to the New York Times, nonprofit organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union, Sierra Club, International Refugee Assistance Project, ProPublica and others experienced similar fundraising surges. Expect more of this in 2017. Citizens who disagree with the new administration will put their money where their mouth is, supporting a range of causes that are threatened by the new administration. As the year unfolds, it’s critical for these organizations to keep donors engaged, using news hooks to emphasize the importance of ongoing giving.

Organized, planned giving

The 2016 elections results gave way to an impassioned call for citizenship and participation, evidenced by the record turnouts at women’s marches around the globe. The post-march narrative is all about organized action, with dozens of new initiatives emerging to help facilitate sustained political engagement. There’s a parallel and complementary movement in philanthropy, with organizations like ideas42 and The Gates Foundation working to help people become more goals-focused and plan-oriented with their giving. Nonprofits are catching onto this too, urging donors to become more thoughtful and consistent through monthly donations and other ongoing engagement opportunities. Check out The Adventure Project’s Giving Calculator as a great example of how to help donors start changing their behavior.

More sophisticated corporate giving

It’s not just individuals who are getting more strategic. Companies continue to embrace a more focused and sophisticated approach to philanthropy with both monetary and in-kind contributions. The 2016 Giving In Numbers report from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy found that corporate giving teams are growing in both size (a 3 percent in increase since 2013) and prominence. With 29 percent of teams reporting increased involvement with the CEO’s office, we’re seeing philanthropy come out of the siloes and become a more strategic business priority for corporations. The study also pointed to a greater emphasis on measuring social outcomes of philanthropic investments. For nonprofits seeking corporate partnerships or funding, it’s critical that you’re able to demonstrate both the measurable impact of your programs and the strategic alignment with the company you’re pursuing.

Employees as philanthropists

Study after study shows that employees—particularly millennials—prefer to work for companies that practice environmental and social responsibility. It’s not surprising, then, that CECP found employee giving participation rates are on the rise (especially for companies that offer volunteer opportunities) or that Microsoft’s Giving Program experienced record-breaking donation numbers last year. With employees becoming more generous, a relationship with a corporation or one of its executives becomes even more valuable for nonprofits. Seeking out partnerships that involve an employee giving and matching component doesn’t only lead to more dollars—it helps nonprofits cultivate new donors and raise awareness about their causes.

Impact investing takes center stage   

Both foundations and corporations are embracing the impact-investing model, which is designed to generate social and environmental benefits and financial returns. Corporations like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Bain Capital are building out impact investment programs – and business schools are following suit.  On the foundation side, big players like the Omidyar Network, the Packard Foundation, the Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation are increasing impact investments and sharing their findings, frameworks and results with others in the space. Against the backdrop of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which demand cross-sector collaboration to drive solutions, we’re likely to see more emphasis on impact investments in 2017. Organizations and social enterprises that can align with SDGs and deliver economic value will fare well in this climate.

What do you think will shape giving in 2017? Tweet me at @Susanmcp1.


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