The field of personal philanthropy is changing rapidly-as quickly as are the tech or finance sectors. Just as with these others, following the shifting trends in charitable giving is demanding because the sector is broad, far-reaching, and operates at all levels of scale. Meanwhile good guidance in being effective with your charitable giving has been surprisingly hard do come by, which is my purpose in the work I do as an author, coach, and consultant. Here are a few of the trends that are affecting philanthropy today and how can use them to inform your own gift decisions:
- Big, big donors will keep stepping in, and are invested in sharing their knowledge: The Giving Pledge , which was started in 2010 by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, invites the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes either during their lifetime or in their will. The Pledge continues to grow; it now has 122 Pledge signatories. Some of these top philanthropists are keen to share knowledge, which anyone can use to be more skillful in their giving, so keep an eye out for guidance in their remarks to the media.
The most prominent player in philanthropic education is The Learning By Giving Foundation started by Warren Buffet’s sister, Doris Buffett. That foundation created Giving With Purpose , an academically rigorous full-credit course in effective charitable giving that is offered at top US universities. In 2013, with cooperation from Google, the foundation launched a free Massive Open Online Course (M.O.O.C.) version of the Giving With Purpose curriculum. Over 10,400 people from 111 countries participated. Although that pilot class has completed, they are planning to run it again and in fact are taking registrations now. It combines easy access to learning on your own schedule with enough depth of information to identify high-performing nonprofits.
- Top philanthropists group is getting younger: Mark Zuckerberg and his
wife Priscilla Chan gave nearly $1 billion in charitable gifts in 2013, including a gift of 18 million shares of Facebook stock, toping annual lists of charitable donations. At 24, Zuckerberg represents a new and very young cohort of the very top philanthropists, which includes former hedge fund manager John D. Arnold and his wife Laura, and Google founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki. According to recent studies, Millennials (20-33 year-olds) are making an impressive early showing in charitable giving, so we can expect this to grow at all economic levels. It is impossible to predict the effect of this trend to a younger demographic in philanthropy, but here is how it might inform your giving.
If you are under 40 years of age, with whatever your giving capacity, consider making a plan to increase the amount and strategy of your charitable gifts. If you are from the Boomer or another more mature generation, discuss your experiences in charitable giving with a younger colleague. It will probably benefit both of you.
- Mobile, online, and social media giving ramps up: Nonprofits and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) know that as younger and more tech-connected people join the givers to their organizations, they need to make giving via mobile, online, and social media more accessible. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported Last June on a study of data from online-fundraising processors serving 115,000 nonprofits. In the study online donations rose 14 percent from the previous year, to $2.1-billion. The report also shows that nonprofits are using and assessing various approaches to reach supporters and get them to give; some of these nonprofits are much more successful in online giving than others.
First of all, don’t evaluate a nonprofit’s effectiveness based on how easy and quick it is to make a donation electronically, or how many device platforms they offer. It is best to identify organizations where you are passionate about the mission and have some understanding of how well they are doing at achieving their stated outcomes. Then, if they don’t offer what might be your preference for tools to give, give in another way – but contact them and request that they add some donation functionality. If they can, they will certainly try to accommodate you.
Your charitable gifts are investments too; make sure they are effective in 2014.