Philanthropic Predictions for 2020


Philanthropic Predictions for 2020

Last year when I wrote Grantmaking Predictions for 2019 I drew on the knowledge and input from our staff researchers. It was a heavily read blog post and fun to write. This year I thought I'd focus on the broader theme of philanthropic predictions, and draw on the insights of a number of leaders in the nonprofit sector, including Amy Holmes, Director, Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors; Gayle Samuelson Carpentier, Chief Business Development Officer, TechSoup; Mike Chamberlain, CEO of Grant Professionals Association; and Marcus Walton, CEO, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, as well as several consultants in the field including Jean Block, Jean Block Consulting, and Jarrett R. Ransom, The Rayvan Group.

It is an interesting mix of thoughts, hopes, and ideas. I hope you both enjoy reading this post and take away something useful for your philanthropic efforts in 2020.

Political Giving Skyrockets
Prediction: Amy Holmes, Director, Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors
Amy Holmes
I expect to see more giving in political issues, focused especially on promoting accurate reflection of communities in Census 2020, and of course, the election.

Many donors are realizing the power of aligning their traditional giving to 501c3s through foundations, with personal giving to 501c4s in support of advocacy efforts.



Change for the Common Good
Prediction: Ellen Mowrer, President and COO, GrantStation

Ellen Mowrer
I foresee a trend to openness, new ideas, and new ways of interacting. While I see continuing similarities to both the social and political discord and polarization of the 1960s, that decade also gave birth to movements for social improvement, peaceful protest, and holistic answers for the benefit of all.

As we enter this new decade, we are ripe for the opportunity to create change for the common good.


Shifting From Charity-Think
Prediction: Jean Block, Jean Block Consulting
Jean BlockIn my work advising nonprofits across the U.S. (which I have done for 20+ years), I am seeing the real need for professionalism in the sector. I’m not talking about dressing-for-success professionalism. I am suggesting that the sector must shift from charity-think to operating our nonprofits in a more professional manner, starting with recruitment and training for board members to gain real sector leaders on boards; recruitment, training, and reasonable compensation for staff to raise the bar to higher performance; and removing the reluctance to address competition and duplication head on…meaning an openness to reducing turf issues and a willingness to discuss collaboration at a higher level. In essence, less wringing of hands over losses in funding and donations, less circling the wagons to refrain from letting other nonprofits with similar missions work with us, and instead, taking a leadership role in raising the whole sector.  As JFK said many years ago, “A rising tide raises all ships.”  Even more true in today’s environment than ever.


A Focus on Family
Prediction: Jarrett R. Ransom, Nonprofit Nerd, The Rayvan Group 
Jarrett R. RansomEngagement of lower-investment donors will be a top focus. Monthly and sustaining donor programs will come back and be more successful. I have heard from many nonprofit executives that they intend to use the year 2020 as a theme to bring in new donors. For example, the YWCA of Phoenix is rolling out a new campaign focused on obtaining 2,000 new allies to make a donation of at least $20 to ensure their work continues. Additionally, fundraising events will be more family inclusive. Many professionals with children have busy schedules and seek opportunities where they can bring their children to the events with them. There are certain events that aren't conducive for children - especially young children. But given an opportunity to incorporate the entire family unit, I believe organizations will be pleased with the outcome. 

Personally, anytime I get the chance to demonstrate philanthropy to my young son, it fulfills me more than any other paddle raiser or fundraising opportunity. Realizing our youth and our children are watching us, we are building a philanthropic culture by modeling our giving in front of younger generations. This also provides an exceptional partnership opportunity with another organization in your community, an organization that provides educational enrichment to the children. This makes a win-win for the families and a win-win to collaborative agencies.


Nonprofits See Funding for Their TRUE Costs
Prediction: Gayle Samuelson Carpentier, Chief Business Development Officer, TechSoup
MGayle Samuelson Carpentiery hope for 2020 is that more communities follow the legislative efforts in Illinois, New York, Maryland, and now Washington D.C. to make sure any nonprofits they contract with receive a FAIR indirect cost rate to cover the true costs of the services delivered.

As a Leap Ambassador, I’ve been excited to see a growing understanding of how often nonprofits struggle when they take on projects that underpay their true costs. The lack of payment often results either in a budget gap, a hardship on the nonprofit organizations doing the work, or in many cases both. There has been lots of documentation on this problem area; let’s hope 2020 sees a recognition that all organizations need to cover their true costs.


Automation and the Grant Professional
Prediction: Mike Chamberlain, MBA, CAE and CEO, Grant Professionals Association
Mike ChamberlainSiri, write a proposal for the Chamberlain Family Foundation grant” sounds rather implausible given the depth and scope of the usual grant proposal. Yet how many of the normal tasks we used to do by hand are now handled through some form of automation. Whether it is getting directions to the local coffee shop through a map application on our phones or even placing our order through an app for that same coffee shop so our order is ready when we arrive, automation and its close relative machine-learning are already a part of our daily lives.

Grant professionals need to recognize these changes and determine both how they will leverage automation to be more effective and efficient in their work and change their work habits to fit a new reality. Many grant professionals spend their time managing the grant application process, engaging staff in multiple areas of their organization, communicating with internal and external stakeholders, and stewarding relationships. The key elements of the work will not change but the tools to achieve the goals of the grant professional will certainly change. We may not be ready for our Alexa to prepare the next foundation grant application, but perhaps it can do more than tell us where the closest coffee shop is.


Back to Basics
Prediction by Marcus Walton, CEO, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

IMarcus Waltont may be time that we got back to basics in philanthropy, working together to make the most of our timetalent and treasure. Beyond simply advocating for SMART© Grantmaking practices, or emphasizing the mechanics of the grantmaking process, I suspect that ongoing matriculation of leaders within nonprofit organizations, as well as challenging social/political conditions will demand a serious examination of the quality of the experience for the people who energize our sector; especially, understanding how inefficiencies within the ecosystem of philanthropy contribute to ineffectiveness (i.e. isolation, scarcity-mindset, competitive behavior).

Personally, I believe that 2020 will include discussion about the importance of supporting the development of the next generation of leaders within the philanthropic sector – ensuring that the generation coming up behind us is equipped with the knowledge, tools, networks and practices to respond with impact and confidence to the evolving issues of the day, as well as subsequent decades. It is time to take care of each other.


Let me sum up with my own prediction for 2020:


Climate Change Funding
Prediction: Cynthia M. Adams, CEO, GrantStation

Cynthia Adams
My number one prediction: Climate change funding will sky rocket, as well it should.

For if we don’t have an Earth to inhabit, then all of the other social and cultural issues are irrelevant.

And if this prediction doesn’t come true?

Then as Greta Thunnberg says, “Shame on us.”



An article written by Sigal Samuel in late 2019 entitled “How should billionaires spend their money to fight climate change?” states:

Some megadonors are already trying to help us avert the climate crisis. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, and Tom Steyer, the environmental philanthropist turned presidential candidate, have each donated millions to the cause. So have major foundations like the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. According to the Open Philanthropy Project, “overall American philanthropic funding for climate change activities appears to be on the order of several hundred million dollars per year.” 

The article interviews nine individuals on how philanthropy can best fund climate change issues. They talked to such folks as Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature, and Alan Robock, environmental science professor at Rutgers University, who is quoted saying “…it’s more important to change your leaders than to change your lightbulb.This is a very thoughtful article and one that I hope many philanthropists are noting.

These predictions are a fascinating slice of innovative thinking, aren’t they? I am eager to see if any of these ideas come to fruition. John Lennon once said, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Perhaps together we can make some of the dreams become reality.