Close Search
News  |  Governance

US Thought Leaders Predict Philanthropy Trends for 2018

8 February 2018 at 8:30 am
Wendy Williams
2018 is set to be the year of giving more by giving together and will see the rise of the most significant generation of philanthropists in history, according to US experts who have identified 11 trends in philanthropy.

Wendy Williams | 8 February 2018 at 8:30 am


US Thought Leaders Predict Philanthropy Trends for 2018
8 February 2018 at 8:30 am

2018 is set to be the year of giving more by giving together and will see the rise of the most significant generation of philanthropists in history, according to US experts who have identified 11 trends in philanthropy.

For the second year running, a group of experts and thought leaders in the not-for-profit sector at the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy have examined changes in the field and identified trends in philanthropy they expect to materialise in 2018.

The trends touch on a number of topics, including how philanthropy relates to and will respond to changes in demographics, data, government, diversity and geography, along with what those changes mean to the industry and practice of philanthropy.

Johnson Center for Philanthropy executive director Kyle Caldwell said the vision was not to predict any outcomes, but rather to share insights and foresights on the contexts and facts that could determine the sector’s future challenges and opportunities.

“Some of the initial trends we identified for 2017 continue to impact our sector (eg how future generations are changing the way we work), while new ones are at the dawn of discovery,” Caldwell said.

“For 2018, we continue to share our thought leadership at a time when the very nature of philanthropy and its core value to society are being questioned.”

Among the trends for 2018 were defining progress with place-based philanthropy, philanthropy’s quest for equity, data-informed decision making, new frameworks for evaluating impact, a growing commitment to building nonprofit capacity and new partnerships between governments and nonprofits.

The Johnson Center’s W.K. Kellogg Community Philanthropy Chair Jason Franklin said he also anticipated seeing the growth of more democratised and diversified philanthropy – “giving more by giving together”.

“At one end of the spectrum, new research shows that giving circles and other collaborative giving groups (collectively referred to as GCs) have tripled in number since 2007. At the other end, almost weekly announcements greet us on the launch of a new funder collaborative, large pooled fund, or other major collaborative giving effort,” Franklin said.

“As this drive to give together continues to build, expect to see more experimentation with collaborative structures, efforts to develop best practices and manage the costs of collaboration, and push back against the power that collaborative funds can wield in their specific issue fields.

“However, giving together is clearly a trend on the rise, with a clear appeal for donors to learn together, share risk, find community, and ultimately make a bigger impact with bigger collaborative investments.”

Another of the 2018 “trends” identified was that of the next gen donors and the “golden age of giving”.

According to Michael Moody, Frey Foundation chair for family philanthropy at the Johnson Center, Gen-Xers and millennials with the capacity for making major gifts will likely become the most significant generation of philanthropists in history.

Moody said these generations would be significant as they will have both unprecedented amounts of wealth to give along with a “zeal for revolutionising philanthropy” through new strategies and innovations that are shaking up the field.

“These revolutionary transformations in major giving will have tremendous implications for everyone in the field, regardless of where you sit around the philanthropic table — as donor, grantmaking staff, trustee, advisor, volunteer, or nonprofit and fundraising professional,” Moody said.

Franklin and Moody also identified a trend toward shared, formal philanthropic spaces that cross international borders in an increasingly connected world.

“Most giving is local and will likely remain so for a long time,” the pair said.

“But in an increasingly connected world, we are seeing the spread of shared, formal philanthropic practices across borders.”

Franklin told Pro Bono News many of the trends identified were relevant to Australia.

“Australia is definitely seeing a growth in collaborative giving in similar patterns to the US,” Franklin said.

“From the growth of giving circles (see Rob John’s recent research on giving circles in Australia, the Pacific Islands and SE Asia) to new collaborative funding efforts like the new ACF pooled fund and AEGN’s explorations for collaborative giving for Australian environmental issues.

“I was struck by the deep interest during my Australian travels from foundation leaders and individual donors about collaborative giving, although Australia also faces some structural challenges for collective giving in the form of limits of funding based on DGR status and limits on moving funds from PAFs to PUAFs which we fortunately don’t face in the US. I’ve been inspired by the work that Philanthropy Australia continues to drive to increase the flexibility of the Australian philanthropic sector which could have powerful benefits for the country if they are successful.”

Franklin said the patterns of generational change also bore strong similarities in Australia and the US.

“In November, my colleague Michael Moody was also in Australia at the same time as I was, presenting to a wide range of audiences about his work on next gen donors. We both heard a steady stream of reflections about the similarities of younger donor in Australia to his US research,” he said.

He said he considered the conversations among Australian philanthropic leaders to be at the global leading edge.

“When I first visited Australia two years ago, I heard many comments to the effect that ‘Australian philanthropic conversations are less developed or behind American conversations.’ I could not disagree more,” Franklin said.

“I found the agenda of the Philanthropy Australia conference and the conversations I had with the Reichstein Foundation, AEGN, Australian Communities Foundation, and others to be as compelling and forward looking as any in the US.

“While the scope of philanthropy is smaller, that is simply a result of a smaller population and economy than the US. With more players in the US, it is no surprise that there are more experiments and variations to learn from but overall, I consider the conversations among Australian philanthropic leaders to be at the global leading edge.

“If anything, I’ve wished that the American philanthropic sector would show the same dedication to learning and reflection as I found in Australia.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

PB Careers
Get your biweekly dose of news, opinion and analysis to keep you up to date with what’s happening and why it matters for you, sent every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers? Get in touch at or download our contributor guidelines.


2022 Salary Survey

Get more stories like this


Your email address will not be published.


Pro Bono Australia Salary Survey sheds light on whether boards get paid

Wendy Williams

Wednesday, 8th June 2022 at 4:56 pm

Guide Dogs Victoria CEO resigns

Danielle Kutchel

Wednesday, 1st June 2022 at 12:04 pm

Charities shine bright as leaders for good

Danielle Kutchel

Monday, 30th May 2022 at 12:44 pm

The new normal for a not for profit

Clare Steele

Wednesday, 18th May 2022 at 12:39 pm

pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook