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11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2019

Anticipate and embrace what’s next.
11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2019

Giving in the United States has now topped $400 billion. Countless community and national organizations are benefiting from a surge in public interest and a growing conviction that renewing our democracy will require that we work together. The entire ecosystem of philanthropy — nonprofits, foundations, donors, and volunteers — is rallying to the cause of civil society and cross-sector collaboration.

Yet, the challenges we face are formidable. They require concrete, data-driven strategies and a willingness to experiment, evaluate, and adjust. They require that we keep moving forward.

Experts and thought leaders from the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy — along with several members of our leadership council — have examined changes in the field and identified 11 trends in philanthropy for 2019 that we expect to see impacting our sector in the coming months and years.

These trends cover a range of topics, from a marked growth in nonprofit media to a downturn in religiosity, to ongoing uncertainty about the impact of 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the nonprofit sector. These 11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2019 will help you anticipate and embrace what’s next.


11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2019

The following trends are not listed in any particular order. We consider them all to be significant.

Photo of several young professionals gathered at a table, taking notes and drinking coffee

The Boundaries are Blurring Between Philanthropy and Business

For as long as we have used “sectors” to define society, we’ve been particularly fixated on the boundaries between those sectors. But today, those boundaries — especially the once bright lines between business and philanthropy — are blurring at an accelerating rate. This trend is leading to great innovation — but its potential pitfalls are real, as well.

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As Religiosity Changes, Donor Engagement Needs to Adapt

Religious organizations have taken in a significant share of America’s philanthropic dollars for generations. But as Americans become less religious, and the traditional vehicles for giving evolve, nonprofits’ understanding of how faith and spirituality impact giving needs to expand.

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Photo of the exterior of the Federal Internal Revenue Service building

For Nonprofits, the Tax Landscape is Far From Settled

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) included a number of provisions that affect the way nonprofits identify and calculate their tax liabilities. Many nonprofits are still working to understand, explain, and account for these changes ahead of the 2018 filing deadline. However, the TCJA’s true impact — and even whether the tax code will continue in its current form through 2019 — remains to be seen.

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Photo of a journalist writing on a notepad while holding two microphones and a recording device.

Nonprofit Media is Experiencing a Growth Spurt — So is Philanthropy’s Response

Journalism is turning to a nonprofit model in the hopes of offsetting falling ad revenue and shoring up faith in a free press. And in a moment of near-daily attacks on the media, more and more foundations and donors are exploring what it means to support independent journalism and media literacy.

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Photo of an old, wooden directional sign with three arrows pointing in different directions. The arrows say "Responsibility," "Values," and "Principles."

More Tools — and More Calls — to Align Foundation Culture with Mission and Values

Power dynamics in philanthropy are nothing new, but the sector’s increased focus on racial equity, environmental sustainability, and other social justice-related issues is pushing more organizations to take a look in the mirror. Foundation leaders are increasingly paying attention to the foundation as an organization, with a culture that supports or interferes with the ability to achieve their mission.

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Photo: Women's March in Los Angles, CA (January 21, 2017)

Nonprofits are Playing a Vital Role in Civic Engagement

Anecdotally, America seems to be experiencing a great surge in civic engagement. Countless nonprofits are benefiting from increased awareness, donations, and public passion — but what really seems to be changing for nonprofits is their own awareness of the role they play in sustaining a healthy democracy.

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Illustration of arrows pointing in the same direction, some lighter in color than others

Concrete Strategies are Emerging for Implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Principles

As professional organizations and agents of cultural change, nonprofits have been concerned with advancing social justice for decades. But as a sector, we have often struggled to find the right levers and tactics for living out our DEI values. Fortunately, the sector’s increased focus in this space is producing more practical strategies for organizations and communities alike.

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Blurry photo of a crowd with code/numbers/data

Powering Communities While Protecting Individuals

Communities working toward equitable change are increasingly turning to data to help them understand and solve their biggest challenges. Detailed data, broken down by characteristics like race and gender, are critical to uncovering stark inequities that might otherwise be hidden by total population averages. But this trend is simultaneously prompting serious questions about the entities that handle data and the security measures they take to protect individuals’ information.

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Photo of three large wooden blocks next to a stack of 16 smaller wooden blocks, representing the concept of a wealth gap.

The Wealth Gap is Becoming a Giving Gap

Giving in the U.S. has long correlated with the up and down pattern of the nation’s economy. But what about an economy in which the most glaring “trend” is not an overall rise or fall, but a growing gap between those at the top and bottom? As wealth and income become increasingly unequal in this country, it appears that patterns in giving may follow this dramatic bifurcation.

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Photo of four, smiling adult women sitting next to each other in a row, each a different age, ethnicity, and body type.

As Donors and as Causes, Women are Taking the Lead in Philanthropy

Women have dominated philanthropy’s professional ranks for decades, and today, the number of women who are taking on roles as institutional leaders and major donors is on the rise. Yet the international spotlight currently falling on women and girls’ causes should be understood more as a blossoming of what’s been happening for generations, than as a wholly new trend.

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Photo of an hourglass on a table with small stacks of coins and dollar bills next to it

Foundations are No Longer Wedded to the Long Game

Patience has been a defining aspect of institutionalized philanthropy for decades; permanent endowments meant foundations could afford to invest in change over the long term. Since 2010, however, there has been a significant shift toward creating foundations that have a defined endpoint. Donors’ reasons for creating these limited-life foundations vary widely.

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