What’s in store for Philanthropy in 2017?

In the last three months multiple nonprofit and charityphilanthropic publications have published forecasts for 2017.  This post will provide the reader with several popular and credible online resources predicting the future of nonprofits and philanthropy for the year. You’ll notice similar predications from each of the sources but perhaps from slightly different perspectives.  Glance at each, or peruse them to come to your own conclusions.

The Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2017 

For the past eight years Grantcraft, a service of the Foundation Center, has published  an annual industry forecast written by Stanford scholar and self-described philanthropy wonk, Lucy Bernholz. This year she addresses two major concerns:

  1. Boundaries between philanthropic and political activity are blurring as civil society’s norms of privacy and anonymity are used to shield political activity, which should be transparent in a democracy.
  2. Government surveillance and the commercial ownership of civil society’s digital infrastructure combine to threaten our rights to free expression and association.

You can download the full report, insights, forecasts, and worksheets, as well as past years here.

Philanthropy Forecast, 2017:Trends and Issues to Watch

Inside Philanthropy, was founded by David Callahan in 2013, as an online news website for the nonprofit sector which focuses on transparency and accountability in philanthropy.  This forecast is their second annual post with predications for the upcoming year covering twenty-five issues facing the third sector. Some of those topics include “how both the rising of supply and demand is changing the balance of power between key sectors of  U.S. society. More funders are stepping forward, even as government is pulling back”.

Five Trends in Philanthropy for 2017

The Council on Foundations posted their forecast in mid-December stating that “2017 will be a year of change, as orthodoxies in the field get tested and philanthropy steps up and into a more prominent national role”.

The Future of Philanthropy Looks Bright: 2017-2018 Charitable Growth Predictions

The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has published  The Philanthropy Outlook which forecasts total giving, examines changes in giving by source, and highlights specific subsectors such as education, health, and public-society benefit.


Increase in Giving


Good news was reported by the recently released Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report – individual giving for a second year in a row has gone up! Personally, I gave to two organizations in the past month. Normally, I do not do that. In both situations I was emotionally invested in the people connected to the organization. I am just one of many who has contributed to the 4.1% growth in small charitable contributions.

Not only is individual giving on the rise, giving increased in all issue areas. For example, giving to religious causes was up 2.7%, education up 8.9%, and human services up 4.2%.

The only decrease in charitable contributions was to foundations. Unfortunately that fell 3.8%. It seems more individuals are inclined to give directly to a cause that matters to them, just like I did.

So why the growth over the last two years? The report indicated that it was due to improving economic conditions and household finances stabilizing.


Click here to read the Giving USA 2016 report highlights.

Click here to read the Philanthropy News Digest article about the Giving USA 2016 report.

Fun Philanthropy: Examples from The Harry Potter Alliance

Katrina Pieri for wordpressWhile perusing the internet a while back, I stumbled upon The Harry Potter Alliance. This nonprofit originally piqued my interest because I’m an undying fan of J. K. Rowling’s series. Anything that includes “Harry Potter” in the title is bound to attract my attention. I realized, however, that it’s really worth discussing why this nonprofit has been so successful since it was founded in 2005.

  •  Quick Facts:
    • The HPA’s vision is “A creative and collaborative culture that solves the world’s problems.”
    • The HPA’s values include such statements as “We believe in magic,” and “We celebrate the power of community–both online and off.”
    • The HPA has completed many successful campaigns, such as “A partnership with Walk Free that engaged over 400,000 fans and resulted in Warner Bros. changing the sourcing of their Harry Potter chocolate to be 100% UTZ or Fairtrade.”
    • The HPA features chapters across the world, the members of which participate in the HPA’s campaigns. Currently, there’s only one chapter in Indiana. It’s located in Greenwood. Wouldn’t it be great if someone started a chapter here in Fort Wayne?

Factors of Success

In my humble opinion, there are at least four main factors contributing to the HPA’s success. The first one is the HPA draws power from fan activism. Fan activism refers to civic or other engagement that stems from a fan culture. A fan culture often centers on popular literature, movies or tv shows, video games, or other forms of media. By way of an example, think of the fans who attend (in large hordes) such events as Comic-Con, often dressed up as their favorite characters.

The HPA is able to mobilize large groups of people from within the Harry Potter fan culture. These fans already identify greatly with the book (and often movie) series; by connecting a well-organized nonprofit with the Harry Potter universe, it’s almost guaranteed that some members of the HP fan culture will seek involvement.

The HPA is very much intrinsically tied to the Harry Potter Universe. The HPA doesn’t just make a few references to the magical, fictional world created by J. K. Rowling. On the contrary, it ties everything in with the HP universe, starting with its name. For example, in 2014 the HPA established a grant for local chapters and named it the “Granger Grant for Excellence in Community Organizing.” This references one of the main characters in the book series, Hermione Granger, and is immediately recognizable to anyone who has read the books/watched the movies. The organization’s stated values provide even more obvious references: “We believe that the weapon we have is love,” for example, is an overarching theme in the series, and also the downfall of the villain Lord Voldemort.Canva HP Blog Post

The HPA’s recognizable connections to the HP universe make the organization even more appealing to members of the fan culture. Perhaps its greatest asset is that it actually ties some of its causes and campaigns to the HP universe. In the book series, social injustices run rampant in the magical world of witches and wizards, and Harry Potter and company do their best to fight said injustices. The HPA therefore allows fans to feel like they’re following in Harry’s footsteps; they’re also trying to improve the world, just as he did.

The HPA taps into the power of youth. As you might guess, the HPA attracts large numbers of youth. The local HPA chapter in Indiana, for your reference, is based out of a high school. Youth are particularly enthusiastic and full of energy. So, the HPA is a classic example of tapping into youth philanthropy.

Lastly, the HPA makes philanthropy FUN! This factor should not be overlooked. The HPA turns charitable work, such as campaigning for fair trade chocolate or net neutrality, or collecting books to donate, into a fun activity. More than anything else, it encourages people to tap into their creativity and explore a reality that merges a fictional universe with progress in the real world. As the organization states in its values, “We know fantasy is not only an escape from our world, but an invitation to go deeper into it.” For those fans who were saddened by the end of the HP series, the HPA provides an avenue for the HP universe to live on, and for its fans to also accomplish great deeds in the name of Harry Potter.

Americans as Philanthropic

What makes us Americans? Is it our patriotism? Citizenship? David Allison, Smithsonian’s Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs said that philanthropy is part of what it means to be an American.

The National Museum of American History is launching a new initiative to explore giving in America. With money from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, the philanthropic initiative will consist of an annual symposium, endowment of a curatorial position, and a longer term exhibition titled “Giving in America.”

america as a flagGiving in America has always been present. We can look back through history and see examples from religious organizations to universities. Harvard in 1643 is credited with the first fund drive in America. Cotton Mather in 1702 writes one of the earliest book on American philanthropy. St. George Society was created in 1770 to help impoverished New York City colonists. The list goes on.

As we have begun our year end campaigns, remember that giving has always been and will continue to be the American way.







What does it take to be a leader?

Bradford Smith, President of the Foundation Center gave a riveting presentation in October 2015 for the Network Days Conference held in New York, NY. His talk was about being a leader and three traits one would need to be successful. Now, Mr. Smith did not give the usual list of characteristics – honesty, communicative, integrity, confidence, etc. Instead, he gave three powerful characteristics with visual and auditory examples. The three of Mr. Smith’s important powerful leadership characteristics are (drum roll please):

  • Vision
  • Energy
  • Improvisation

Vision is key as Mr. Smith said, because of the world in which we live. Technology is short term and we become reactive. Leaders need to have an idea of how to get to the future, a non-reactive process. A leader needs to spend time to find the path ahead.

tazA leader needs an enormous amount of energy to move toward a vision. Mr. Smith compared the amount of energy need to Taz, the animated cartoon character in Warner Bros.’ Loony Tunes. After playing a short cartoon clip, he reiterated that a significant amount of power is required to fulfill a vision and to keep at it when the wind is blown out of your sails.

The last characteristic Mr. Smith discussed was improvisation. He put it quite simply – “you have to improv to get where you want to go.” There is an art to fulfilling a vision and part of it is not knowing exactly all the pieces. A leader needs to be able to move forward in the moment without a prepared script. Mr. Smith compared improvisation with music. Musicians compose and even perform using improvisation. In our sector there are disruptions in funding, natural disasters, etc. and leaders need to be able to improv to get to your destination.


Local Celebration of National Philanthropy Day


The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP)
Northeast Indiana Chapter
invites you to attend the
National Philanthropy Day® 2013 Awards Breakfast

Held all over the country, National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) is the day to recognize and pay tribute to the contributions that philanthropy—and philanthropists—have made to our communities, the nation, and the world.
The theme of the celebration is “Change the World with a Giving Heart” and our 2013 National Philanthropy Day will honor local outstanding individuals, companies, and nonprofit leaders for what they do.

DATE: Thursday, November 14, 2013

TIME: 7:30 a.m. on‐site registration (RSVPs are required)
7:45 a.m.—9:00 a.m. Celebration: Awards program with buffet breakfast

LOCATION: Ceruti’s Summit Park Diamond Room
6601 Innovation Drive: Fort Wayne, Indiana

COST: $10/person (AFP Member) / $15/person (non‐Member)
Giving Heart recipient is FREE with a paid attendee
RSVP: By Fri., Nov. 1 at afpnein.afpnet.org (under the Philanthropy Day tab)

QUESTIONS: Rose Fritzinger at rfritzinger@eacs.k12.in.us

Special thanks to Sweetwater
for their sponsorship of this event! Image


Applications Not Accepted? What’s a Grant Seeker to Do?

“Of the more than 86,000 independent, community, and corporate foundations in the United States, 60 percent state that they do not accept unsolicited proposals.”

– Bradford K. Smith, Foundation Center president

In our Grant Basics I class grant seekers learn about the opportunity to cultivate a relationship with funders who do not accept unsolicited proposals, but what does that actually mean?

Grant seekers want to know: How do I make contact?  Foundation Center has your answers, pulled together below:

Applications Not Accepted: Get on Their Radar [2011-04-25]” a transcript from an online GrantSpace chat with panelist Bradford K. Smith, president of Foundation Center, and Pamela Grow, author, coach, consultant and more, offers their thoughts and experiences on “preselect” foundations brought out the following resources and options for Grant Seekers entertaining building a relationship with a foundation not accepting applications.

Check out some notes or go straight to the source – read through this GrantSpace online chat 

Action steps for grant seekers:

1) Research the foundation thoroughly
2) Follow the foundation’s guidelines. “No phone calls” means just that, but don’t make assumptions.
3) Consider a Letter of Inquiry, which in this particular case is technically more of an “Exploratory Letter”*
4) Find a personal connection, through your board or staff
5) Build a relationship. Take an interest in the foundation’s work in the community, ask for their feedback or seek advice from their representatives
– Read the transcript for more.

*What is the difference between letter of inquiry and exploratory letter? 

“The major difference is that you note that you are aware that the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals while noting that your research indicates that your mission aligns beautifully with theirs.” – Pamela Grow

Learn more about Exploratory Letters in Storytelling for Grantseekers by [Cheryl] Clarke, also available as an ebook for ACPL cardholders.

Related resources from GrantSpace’s Knowledge Base Q & A’s:

From this last resource: Common reasons that foundations do not accept applications include:

  • the foundation has an internal process for identifying and selecting its grantees each year
  • it has been legally set up for the benefit of specific organizations
  • it does not have the capacity to receive and review a lot of proposals

For more light reading, check out Bradford K. Smith’s PhilanTopic blog post “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” on why a foundation might choose to not accept unsolicited proposals.