The Future of Philanthropy: Making Major Gifts Work Harder

Image: graur razvan ionut at

Image: graur razvan ionut at

How will fundraising change in the years ahead? How will giving change? Will there still be a place in the charitable sector for major gifts?

No one truly knows, of course. But it’s fun to step back once in a while and think about the future of our field. Current headlines may offer some clues. We know that the internet and social media are powerful forces of democracy and interconnectedness. And we often hear that the rich are getting richer or the majority of our country’s wealth is increasingly controlled by fewer individuals. 

How to put it all together? Here are two phenomena I expect we’ll see in the not-too-distant future of philanthropy:

Major donors who know and care about the rest of us

Tomorrow’s major givers have grown up in an interconnected society. They keep up with former college buddies in Japan, share photos with cousins in Milwaukee, and text incessantly with friends and family everywhere. Even if they are wealthy, they don’t consider themselves separate or elite as did American aristocrats of bygone days (think: Rockefeller, Mellon, and Morgan). They've witnessed the online power of the masses (that’s us) – and they believe in it.

Hybrid major gifts

The donors of the future will still make major gifts, but they will ask more of those gifts and of the nonprofits who accept them. I believe major gift donors of the future will strive for two things: furthering their favorite charity’s mission with large lump-sum donations, AND inciting other people to give to this organization, too. 

And the approach of encouraging others to give will be much more sophisticated than simply inviting friends to share a gala table. It will be tied to a calculated, technology-based campaign that is catchy, quick, and maybe even anonymous. Donors may have ideas for these campaigns. Or they’ll expect the nonprofit to come up with one.

Whatever the future holds, be ready for it! You can start by watching the Ted Talk that inspired this post.

What are YOUR predictions about the future of philanthropy? Please share in the Comments box below.

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