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.

3 Responses
  1. Investing in a top performing fundraising team is more than simply good business practice, as doing so helps assure organizational long term stability, growth and success. Organizations not prioritizing fundraising operations run high risks of missing out on mission critical opportunities.

    Gregory Pierre Cox
    Southern California Public Radio/KPCC

  2. We need more effective philanthropy. But Mr. Pallotta’s vision for what that looks like is rooted in a lack of understanding of philanthopy’s past and present — and it wrongly assumes a direct correlation between funds raised and impact achieved. My take on his book is in this week’s Chronicle of Philanthropy.

  3. Mark Hierlihy says:

    I am not yet convinced that the future of philanthropy, is philanthropic. As demographics evolve, I am inclined to think that in 30, 40, and 50 years (or maybe sooner), people will give in completely different ways and to different kinds of charities.

    Organizations like Charity: Water are already teaching younger people to think about causes, not just charities. And cause marketing is training consumers to give while they buy, not give for a tax receipt. New “charities” will shake it up in a way that will force the whole industry to reinvent itself, not driven by charities leaders, but by hyper democracy enabled by new technologies.

    It’s gong to be a new world, baby! 🙂

    Food for thought from @causemark

Leave a Comment


Subscribe to receive instant email notifications of our #LAtogether blog posts and CCF e-newsletters.



Join us in making an impact on the issues that face L.A.



Something is wrong.
Instagram token error.




California Community Foundation join us in Building Los Angeles Together.

© 2019 California Community Foundation. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy

//Google Analytics