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June 29, 2017 / WRAG

Nonprofit Summer Learning Series: National and Regional Philanthropic Trends

Cody Switzer, assistant managing editor at The Chronicle of Philanthropy, hosted last week’s Nonprofit Summer Learning Series event with Meyer Foundation president Nicky Goren and Consumer Health Foundation president Yanique Redwood.

He shared five foundation trends The Chronicle is covering.

Here’s an overview of his remarks:

Narrow grantmaking focus

This trend is increasingly common among both foundations and big donors as they look to make a significant impact by putting a large sum of money around one issue — going deep, and not wide.

Locally, the Meyer Foundation has narrowed its focus to housing for people with low incomes, helping them build wealth, and preparing young people for the workforce to make the most difference in those areas.

Evaluation and impact measurement

Many foundations have shifted from giving money for just running programs, instead looking at system-wide change. But this can be difficult to measure, and nonprofits need support to get started.

In a recent Chronicle op-ed, Antony Bugg-Levine of the Nonprofit Finance Fund and Kerry Sullivan of the Bank of America Foundation wrote that grant makers should provide nonprofits with the skills and tools to better measure impact.

Grantmaking with an equity lens

This shift in priorities sometimes means leaving programs behind or recasting programs through a racial-equity lens.

Grant proposals to the Consumer Health Foundation, where panelist Ms. Redwood is president, now also much include a racial-equity impact assessment, which makes nonprofits think about all of the possible intended and unintended results of their programs.

Impact investing

This trend can take on a lot of different forms, like investing in companies with a socially responsible mission, making low-interest loans, providing start-up support to businesses, and more.

And it’s quickly growing.

There were at least $114 billion in impact investments at the end of last year, and that’s likely to climb to $140 billion by the end of 2017 as more financial-service firms offer impact-investing products.

Foundation responses to the Trump administration

After the election, the philanthropic world braced for change. A Center for Effective Philanthropy study found that almost three-quarters of foundation leaders plan to make adjustments in reaction to the new administration.

Foundations including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the California Endowment, the Packard Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation have put money aside to respond to some of the administration’s proposed changes.

And conservative foundations aren’t rushing to map their priorities to the new administration. In interviews, most say they’ll continue to focus on state-level changes and stay-the-course where they can.


Make sure you register for the next two sessions in the Nonprofit Summer Learning Series. The sessions will focus on exploring the numerous non-dollar strategies that funders use to meet their philanthropic goals and the reasons for the rise in evaluation culture. Register here! 

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