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Sherlocking Trends in Philanthropy



I know! Sherlocking is not a word. But sometimes it's just difficult to find the right word to describe what I am up to.

For the past year or so, I have been very excited about that fact that there are actually trends in philanthropy, specifically in grantmaking, that we can follow. For so many years, there were no trends to speak of. Grantmaking was pretty "ho-hum," never changing, or changing very little. Granted (so to speak), there were a few foundations that did mix things up and attempted to change the status quo, but they were few and far between.

Today, however, things are truly starting to change. We're seeing everything from collaborations and transparency to open data and layered funding become regular topics of discussion within the grantmaking realm. We've also seen interesting trends developing in what some are calling the balance of power.

How do you stay on top of these trends? And what do all of these trends mean to the grantseeker?

Keeping up with trends takes time, and I would know, because I am constantly doing research to stay abreast of what is going on! I try to share a lot of this information regarding trends via my weekly podcast, Talk2020. In fact, I just did a six-part series on the most innovative trends happening, not just in the United States, but globally.

To keep people informed about the latest trends, we're also developing a new area of the GrantStation website called TrendTrack. This part of our site won't go live for a while, but we've been playing with the different items we might include, including having our writers (staff that develops and updates all of our grantmaker profiles on GrantStation) look at trends they see emerging. I wanted to share a few of their observations with you.

One of our authors, Tracey Lease, said:

While updating records this last month, I have noticed more foundations requesting, or strongly encouraging, grantseekers to attend introduction webinars or in-person sessions so that they better understand the foundation's eligibility requirements and guidelines before engaging in the application process. I have not noticed enough foundations requesting attendance to call this a full-blown trend, though I wouldn't be surprised if we see more of this type of advanced communication over time.

Another one of our authors, Sally Morral, noted:

One of the most noticeable trends among philanthropic organizations is support for K-12 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. I first noticed this trend in corporate giving companies such as Northrop Grumman and other aerospace organizations. The focus on STEM tends to lean toward the need to "close the achievement gap" in the U.S. as a whole or in regional areas of the U.S.
What I find among corporate giving websites is that focusing on STEM helps to give American corporations a competitive advantage by investing in a future workforce that will be capable of enhancing and propelling new technology. This is a strategic move, ensuring a larger pool of college graduates with STEM education and capabilities who will be employment ready.
These companies include energy, software, robotics, and the like. In the article on the CISCO Systems, Inc. website, "Teacher Prepares High-School Students for STEM and Cybersecurity Careers," the goal of one nonprofit grant recipient is to "inspire students to pursue careers in cybersecurity and STEM." DTE Energy Foundation gives awards for STEM education programs to "increase the number of college undergraduates entering the STEM disciplines, thereby expanding the STEM workforce pipeline."

It's these "in the trenches" trends, along with broader national and global trends, that we will be highlighting in our new area of the GrantStation website. I'd love to hear from you to see if this type of information would be helpful in your work. I'd also like to know if during your own Sherlocking work, you've come across resources you think I should investigate further! You can e-mail me at:

Sherlocking-Trends-in-Philanthropy_Cynthia-Adams.pngThe preceding is a guest psot by Cynthia Adams, CEO of GrantStation, a premiere online funding resource for organizations seeking grants throughout the world. Providing access to a comprehensive online database of grantmakers, GrantStation helps nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies make smarter, better-informed grantseeking decisions. GrantStation is dedicated to creating a civil society by assisting the nonprofit sector in its quest to build healthy and effective communities.

Topics: Charitable Giving