The Future of Philanthropy

October 3, 2012

Philanthropy has two possible futures. One can be predicted by looking at the past. In fact, it will be created by our loyalty to the limitations of the past, and it won’t look all that different. It will be characterized by caution and a lack of courage and innovation. Or worse, it will be characterized by caution framed with new jargon and masquerading around as innovation. 

The other future is a future created from the future. It is brave, daring and innovative, and it has one purpose: multiplication. Here’s the problem we face: our  problems are much larger than our nonprofits, and our nonprofits are unable to grow to meet their scale because we force charities to operate under a set of rules that prevents it. So, the exciting and inspiring future of philanthropy is in helping organizations to grow — dramatically — insanely — so that they stand a chance up against these massive social problems. That will require serious investment in fundraising to dramatically increase charitable giving. And not just investing grant money in fundraising, but getting really brave and investing corpus money in it as well. If we can get charitable giving to move from its current and historical 2% of GDP up to 2.5% or 3.5% of GDP, and have the incremental money go disproportionately to health and human services causes, then things would start to get really exciting. That would give us enough money to actually overcome problems, not just keep our heads above water. 

So the smart future of philanthropy is in the very thing philanthropists have been told not to invest in — fundraising. And that’s where the smart money will be as well.

Dan Pallotta is the author of “Charity Case – How the Nonprofit Community Can Stand Up for Itself and Really Change the World,” and is the creator of the multi-day charitable event industry.

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