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Philanthropy and Grant Outlook for 2014

Wed, Dec 18, 2013 @ 16:12 PM / by Michelle Hansen

It’s that time of year again. A time for resolutions and a look back at the year that was. The world of grant-making is no exception. It’s important to look at the past year to see what new processes and tools developed, how these advances have been used, and how they will shape the future. GrantCraft, a project of the Foundation Center, recently released Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2014 by Lucy Bernholz. Bernholz has been working in, moneywriting about, and consulting about the philanthropy world since 1990. This is the fifth annual industry forecast she has penned.

In the 32-page document, Bernholz takes a look back at the ever-changing world of grant-making foundations, the highlights of 2013, and what to expect in 2014. When the document was created, there were 1.1 million public charities worth $2.7 trillion in the U.S. Additionally, there were 81,777 public foundations that had expenditures totaling $49 million.

“New foundations and associations, and new types of enterprises all together, are being created as a result of shifting national policies and changing economic fortunes,” says Bernholz.

A Big Shift

As Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn become household words, the grant-making economy is also seeing a change toward data-driven, technology-led practices, according to the Blueprint.

At the most basic level, foundations and associations are using social media outlets to enhance their work. E-mail and tweets are being used to replace or amplify direct-mail efforts, according to the report. The majority of grant applications are also now found online, downloaded, and submitted almost entirely using the Internet.

Additionally, mobile technologies that have changed the entire world have also influenced more interventions in global health concerns, clean water initiatives, and disaster response--spurring more grant seekers and grant givers in these realms. Data collection and sharing have also affected these “impact investments,” since the creation of shared metrics and digital databases has made collaboration and coordination far easier.

Technology has also influenced methods and mechanics. Nonprofits are also using social media to generate awareness, and they are introducing electronic contributions such as PayPal and “donate now” buttons to their websites. The upside of digital media, according to the document, is a success story in “the way nonprofits and foundations use social media and digital videos to tell their stories, build movements, and raise awareness.”

There could be a downside to this technology movement, according to the Blueprint. The document asks how the private materials, decisions, networks, and associations that make up these independent organizations remain protected and private as they shift toward data collection and technology-driven practices. Bernholz states that organizations need to give high consideration to their own practices in digital privacy.

Buzzwords in 2013

Bernholz lists the top buzzwords that were prevalent in philanthropy circles in 2013. “Privacy” gets her vote for top buzzword of the year, mostly for all the reasons stated above.

“Performance management,” measuring outcomes, especially outcomes from programs and projects funded by grants, makes the list. In 2013, Bernholz contends that organizations of all sizes were working diligently on fine tuning and improving, and in some cases, creating, tools to measure performance.

Philanthropic organizations want to hear back from their beneficiaries, which is why “constituent feedback” makes the list of top buzzwords of the year. According to Bernholz, receiving this feedback is more cost effective than ever with the use of social media, websites, and email. She says to expect more projects in 2014 like GlobalGiving Storytelling and YouthTruth.

Rounding out the list of trendy words are: “peer-to-peer services” (resource-saving, sharing mentality); “makers” (the creators of old-fashioned handmade goods, with museums and libraries often seeking grants to host maker workshops, programs); “bitcoin” (digital, nationless currency popular with some nonprofits); “commons” (resources are held in common creating new approaches to developments); “metadata” (data about data); “randomista” (a derogatory term for an evaluator or social scientist who believes the only meaningful evidence is that which comes from random control trials; “solutionism” (digital innovators who believe they can solve every community problem with an app).

What to Expect in 2014

Bernholz makes some pretty bold statements in regards to the outlook for philanthropy organizations in 2014. The boldest could be the declaration that at least one major nonprofit/foundation organization will close its doors in the new year.

In the data and technology sector, Bernholz believes there will be a whole new group of service providers and consulting firms to help associations and foundations manage crowdfunding campaigns. She also states that new mobile money tools that make phone-to-phone and peer-to-peer payments easier will make “informal networks of people even more visible, viable, and important.” Also, video will be the next infographic.

Her other predictions for 2014 include the development of a nonprofit standard for privacy as well as the launch by U.S. foundations of several new initiatives rooted in concerns about the state of the American democracy. Also, Bernholz believes nonprofit organizations will begin to take over some vital city functions such as transportation infrastructure, thus becoming a major aid for cash-strapped cities.

Another prediction could be a good sign for those nonprofits waiting for 501(c)(3) approval from the IRS, which currently could take months. Bernholz believes this approval will be moved out of the hands of the IRS and into those of a new regulatory authority to be created.


Whether you are just beginning your journey into the grant world, or are well established in the realm, navigating new technology, ideas, and standards can be difficult. can help you develop and use new tools and technologies to make your grant search more rewarding. We can also help you with your 501(c)(3) application as well as help you create and manage tools to measure program performance. See a list of all of our services here.


Photo Credit: Tax Credits

Topics: grant trend, funding trend, 501(c)(3), Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 201, foundations, foundation grant money, federal spending

Michelle Hansen

Written by Michelle Hansen

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