Philanthropy, in its basic form has existed for thousands of years—it is not a new concept. It was the ancient Greeks who coined the term, philanthropos, meaning “loving humanity.” While the word has slightly evolved over time, it still embodies the same principles. At its root, philanthropy embraces the idea of spreading good to humankind through financially supporting and promoting causes that seek societal betterment. Though existing for ages, it is like many other things, taking on current trends and following streams of progression as time reshapes ideologies, opinions, and necessities.
Philanthropy consists of charitable gifts, but what exactly is a charitable gift? It should be understood to mean the following: “A gift made by an individual or an organization to a nonprofit organization, charity or private foundation (Charitable Donations).” Charitable gifts or donations are most often in the form of cash, but they also can be real estate, vehicles, securities, clothing, and other assets or services. It should be noted at this point that such gifts are generally tax deductible, thus for the giver and receiver a double benefit is received—one receives the gift, the other receives a tax deduction.
Now to the trends: the role of the individual philanthropist is as strong as ever. Approximately 85% of the total charitable contributions made annually are by individuals. There is a streak of popularity toward nonprofit organizations that do not rely on any government founding, membership dues, and have no earned income revenue—they rely solely on the donations of individuals. A few examples include: Orphan Grain Train, Vitamin Angels, Robin Hood Foundation, Homes for Our Troops, and Feed My Starving Children (10 Highly Rated).
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While individual giving has been promoted in the past as being a “good thing,” it definitely has taken an upward swing. In the past couple years, high profile people such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin have been making donations to charitable causes consisting of billions of dollars. This has certainly elevated the popularity of donating, making it trendy and fashionable to contribute to a good cause. Along the lines of individualistic donations, volunteerism should not be overlooked. It is an essential underpinning of philanthropy.
Seventy-five percent of all American households are engaged in volunteering for a nonprofit organization in some manner, showing that such practice holds an essential place in society (Weinstein, 2009). Eisner, Grimm Jr., Maynard, and Washburn (Winter 2009) elaborate on a recent trend which some organizations call, “a talent management approach.” Where management invests in and builds the framework to recruit, train, position, recognize, and retain volunteer support. In other words, while financial donations play a large part of the philanthropy scene, also crucial to the success of a nonprofit organization is its infrastructure of volunteer support—the volunteers are what comprise and carry out the initiatives and goals of the organization.
Easily recognized is the fact that the current economy climate isn’t what it once was. Funds are tight. How are the giving patterns affected by the economic condition? Surprisingly, according to the Giving USA 2012 report, the total estimated charitable giving in the U.S. increased 4 percent in 2011 over 2010 (Giving USA, 2012). This can be due to many factors, one of which is increased confidence on the part of individuals’ future expectations. An example of what contributed to this growth follows: giving by individuals rose 3.9 percent and giving by bequest increased 12.2 percent. While not all giving rose in 2011, e.g. religious gifts declined 1.7 percent and gifts to foundations decreased by 6.1 percent, the overall flux being positive is a good note.
The recent positivity toward philanthropic giving by individuals (third paragraph above) has definitely helped keep up the trend despite a struggling economy. Also of note to today’s philanthropic movement is the fact that Americans are aging. The over-65 age group will increase 76 percent in the next 17 years (Weinstein, 2009). What this means is that there is a large amount of wealth that will be transferred; while a large part will go to successive generations, a significant amount will be donated to charity. Because of this, there are increasing opportunities for organizations to institute planned giving programs, initiating the facilitation of such gifts. These opportunities regarding the aging population undoubtedly introduce new trends in the philanthropic scene.
Recently, there has been an incline toward greater collaboration among organizations. It’s been discovered that when resources, abilities, and ideas are shared, greater good can be accomplished. Some institutions, who had been competing against each others’ work, have recently “reached over the wall” and embraced their similar goals, forming new alliances and effectively pushing together to execute objectives. Mergers will be exploited in upcoming years, holding the potential for economies of scale. By eliminating duplicate costs, the organization(s) can focus more energy into fulfilling goals. While allying together isn’t a new concept, it is a trend that is gaining greater momentum as more organizations begin to see the benefits of such rallying.
Technological advancements have reshaped the foundation of philanthropy. Donations are gathered, solicitations presented, etc.—over the internet. The internet and mobile technology has initiated a pivotal turn in philanthropic movement, allowing an organization to pick up a broader base of supporters, as well as allowing the giver to support a greater diversity of initiatives. Also, social media and other types of media are redefining how philanthropy is pursued, and who is being supported. The successful organizations in today’s forward-pacesetting society, are the ones who are aggressively pursuing social media interaction, as well as using other forms of media to make individuals and companies aware of who they are and what they’re doing. It’s crucial that organizations embrace technology, keeping stride with the latest advancements or donor support may wane.
It’s in the best interest of organizations to stay up to speed on the latest trends in philanthropy. For the vitality of the organization, it is critical that individuals be informed and knowledgable in the matters of the organization. After all, uninformed individuals are unsupportive individuals. Furthermore, keeping users informed requires the continual upgrading of practices to match latest progressions, thus individuals are stimulated to keep giving, keeping philanthropy a center-point to society.
Investopedia. Charitable Donation. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from http:// www.investopedia.com/terms/c/charitabledonation.asp#ixzz2KjVtZgfL Charity Navigator. 10 Highly Rated Charities Relying on Private Contributions. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm? bay=topten.detail&listid=17
Weinstein, S. (2009). The Complete Guide to Fundraising Management. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 8-9.
Eisner, D., Grimm Jr., R., Maynard, S., & Washburn, S. (Winter 2009). The New Volunteer Workforce. Stanford Social Innovation Review, vol. 7 num. 1. Retrieved from http:// www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/the_new_volunteer_workforce Giving USA Foundation. (2012). Giving USA 2012 Executive Summary. Retrieved February 13, 2013, from http://www.givingusareports.org