For many decades if you were referring to a "trend" in philanthropy, you were embracing the definition of trend in its totality, which is a general direction in which something is developing or changing.
In this new world that is driven by the interchange of thoughts and opinions flying back and forth across the globe, philanthropy has taken on a new guise.
Let's explore one of these trends that I find particularly exciting.
"Giving while living" is the new mantra for many family funds. The trend is simply to spend down the corpus of a family fund within a set period of time. The debate continues between the idea of giving in perpetuity and the instant gratification that comes with giving it all away in the near future. This discussion, which can become quite heated, has been going on for decades, but it seems to have accelerated in the past several years as more family funds are inherited by a generation of individuals wanting to see quick returns on their investment.
Accompanying this new trend is the increased willingness for the grantmaker to take risks in order to achieve a specific vision. Because there is limited time to achieve their goals, these grantmakers are investing in advocacy as well as untested ventures. That allows the grantseeker the opportunity to propose projects and approaches that would not typically be funded.
What Does All of This Mean for the Grantseeker?
First, collaboration is the key to unlocking these funds. Limited life foundations clearly recognize the need to partner early and often to meet their goals—and to encourage their grantees to do the same.
Second, when submitting applications to funds that have defined life spans, it is important to include a sustainability plan. You need to recognize openly that there is going to be limited support from a particular grantmaker, and that you have a plan to carry on your work beyond that funder's involvement. Sustainability is a topic unto itself, but it is imperative to both your organization’s success and your own peace of mind.
And third, I would suggest that groups establish endowment funds now in order to be ready to accept large gifts. Those who are ready are most likely to inherit the larger amounts of money that may be spent down in the last year of a fund's life.
So, let me sum this up by noting that by the year 2020, philanthropy, not only in the United States but throughout the world, will wear a new face. I feel confident that these changes will open an expanded door of opportunity in the area of grantseeking for nonprofit organizations. A global sensibility combined with an array of innovative technologies will birth a new way, and perhaps a new wave, of giving.
Cynthia M. Adams, GrantStation
© 2014, GrantStation
Cindy Adams is CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online fundraising resource that provides information on more than 6,500 funders accepting inquiries. You can learn more about trends in philanthropy in her weekly podcast: Talk2020, part of GrantStation's Vision2020 series to help nonprofits prepare for future grantmaking.