Our society is fundamentally different than it was a few short months ago. Whatever words you want to use to describe 2021, we can no longer use “unprecedented” in 2022 as we move into the third year of the pandemic.
Workplaces and households of all types have adapted to the reality that COVID-19 is with us for the long haul. Remote work, online conferences, and pets and kids on video calls are now just part of our workdays. Once casual get-togethers with friends and family have become major decision points. Community participation has moved from the local library to the virtual breakout room. We may never go back.
We’re rebuilding our world block by block and, as the old saying goes, it can feel like we’re building this plane while we’re flying it. And the radar is flickering in and out. Our lives and communities have changed so quickly, it’s become difficult to anticipate what our world might look like next week — let alone next year.
What we do know, is that our country is wrestling with many serious questions about who we are, what we want, where we’re willing to negotiate, and where we aren’t. As members of both an American and a global community, philanthropy practitioners are engaged in a similar struggle.
Previous years’ Trends reports have examined the question “What is the role of philanthropy in a democracy?” As our Johnson Center team researched and wrote this year’s 11 Trends in Philanthropy for 2022, we found that many of the topics we looked into reflect the sector’s grappling with a similarly profound question: What role does philanthropy play in our national project — that of E Pluribus Unum?
We are proud to share with you this year’s publication, our sixth annual report on the forces and movements at work across the field.
The following trends are not listed in any particular order. We consider them all to be significant.
For many nonprofits, the concept of cryptocurrency still feels alien and difficult to grasp. The asset itself can be volatile, the technology behind it confusing, and new cryptocurrencies are created all the time. Still, its appeal as a donor vehicle and the new wealth it’s creating are undeniable — pushing savvy nonprofits to keep up.
When the federal Pell Grant program became inaccessible to the incarcerated in 1994, the number of people in prison who were able to access post-secondary education halved within a year. Many students, colleges, universities, and funders have stayed engaged since then, but the reopening of the federal program could launch a new era for higher education in prison.
Animal-focused philanthropy has traditionally aimed at preserving species diversity, wildlife habitats, and supporting companion and service animals. However, as we gain a better understanding of how our relationships with animals — as sources of food and labor, as tourist attractions, as co-carriers of zoonotic diseases, etc. — affect our health and theirs, a fast-growing sub-sector is focused on improving outcomes for all.
The daily news is replete with stories about the increasing polarization in our society. Many issues we once thought of as common ground, such as public health, have become battlegrounds instead. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised then, to see that philanthropy is becoming increasingly enmeshed in these larger culture wars.
The workplace has changed — likely forever. With both new and longstanding challenges come opportunities for experiments and innovation. Nonprofits and foundations are responding to the forces driving change by seeking new ways to identify and invest in talent — both for the sector and beyond.
In 2018, the number of American households that reported giving financially to charity dropped below 50% for the first time. While generosity takes many forms, this shift in the proportion of Americans who provide needed dollars to nonprofits is raising alarm bells across the sector. It’s also prompting a range of efforts to try to understand and perhaps reverse this trend.
Giving by Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, and other donors of color is a growing area of interest and attention for the philanthropic sector, boosted by new research studies, expanding networks, and new infrastructure supports. What’s more, donors of color are themselves leading — or are playing an increasingly visible role in leading — many of the shifts we’re seeing in the field.
Media reports and academic research often narrowly define philanthropy as cash donations to charitable organizations. The roots of this understanding can be dated back to the early 20th century and the rise of large grantmaking institutions and mega-wealthy, industrialist donors. Today, however, the overlapping challenges of a global pandemic and inchoate racial reckoning have provided an opportunity to recast our conception of philanthropy.
Native Americans have been working for generations to resource their own communities. Driven by key voices and global events, institutional philanthropy is now waking up to the real strengths, challenges, and needs that Indigenous people bring to many of our sector’s most pressing areas of work.
The nonprofit sector has long differed from the for-profit sector in its relationship to data. However, with the availability of new tools, technologies, and partnerships, nonprofits are taking advantage of the rise of data philanthropy, predictive analytics, and machine learning to demonstrate impact.
As we learn more about how Facebook and other social media platforms are causing harm to civil society, philanthropic organizations are starting to ask themselves a difficult question: should we stop using Facebook?