Philanthropic Futurist predicts the next wave of philanthropy


Trista Harris


We are living in a time of transformative change in the philanthropic field.

In 2016, I was starting to feel the acceleration of this change and created a future of philanthropy model that envisioned a tomorrow where foundation processes could act quickly when a community crisis struck by streamlining their application and evaluation systems to focus on doing the most good in a community as soon as possible.

Because of the accelerating forces of the pandemic, racial reckoning, and economic crisis have had on philanthropy, we are now living in that future.

So what is coming next for the field? Here are my predictions for trends that I expect to be widespread by 2032 – and clearly visible in 2023. 

Philanthropy as a collaborator

Philanthropy deepens its role in civic engagement by supporting nonprofits in solving community issues through advocacy and organizing. There will be more of a focus on how we are solving problems rather than using philanthropic dollars to make things five percent less terrible.

Regenerative philanthropy takes root

Justice Funders has developed a comprehensive model of what a transition from extractive to regenerative philanthropy should look like. Two highlights that I think will deeply impact the future of philanthropy are:

  • Authentic partnerships with grantees where communities impacted by the problem design solutions to those problems.
  • Less time on due diligence processes and more on relationship building.

Seeing past the grants

During the pandemic and economic downturn, foundations have been paying a lot more attention to how their operations impact the communities they care about. We will continue to see an operationalization of a foundation’s values. Here are a few examples of what this will look like in action:

  • More foundations will move their investment strategy screens from not investing in harmful things like tobacco or for-profit prisons to improving the issues they care about, i.e., carbon mitigation.
  • A large percentage of foundations will have (and use) diverse vendor policies for their spending decisions, ensuring that foundation resources are spending more time in local communities and benefiting marginalized communities.
  • We will move towards a future where 100 per cent of foundation assets are mission and program related invested. This infusion of new dollars into social purpose capital markets will create new opportunities for developing initiatives like affordable housing and lower-interest-rate loans for entrepreneurs of colour.

Artificial Intelligence makes a noticeable impact

Dr Ray Kurzweil has predicted that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will achieve human-like intelligence before 2029. Innovations like ChatGPT might make this prediction happen even sooner. The innovation of AI has vast impacts on nonprofits, foundations, and society. We will need to quickly learn how to partner with AI to improve the way we work. I believe we should use AI in the social sector to take over routine tasks and reporting. These improvements will create space for us to use human creativity to strengthen our organizations’ impact.

Invest in leaders, not just organizations

In the future of philanthropy, there will be a clear understanding that healthy, balanced nonprofit (and foundation) leaders can create better community outcomes. Investing in sabbaticals and grantee learning will be a regular occurrence throughout the field.

The field of philanthropy is changing at an exponential pace. We can use this moment of transformation to ensure that the field is working to create a more beautiful and equitable future.

Trista Harris is a Philanthropic Futurist and President of FutureGood, a consultancy focused on helping visionaries build a better future, and a facilitator at FutureGood Studio.

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