Skip to content

From Policy To Technology: Takeaways from Predict-a-palooza 2018

Blueprint, Opinion

Lucy Bernholz reflects on the first live webinar featuring predictions from civil society leaders

This piece was first published by Giving Compass. View the Blueprint series here.

With the tax changes in the U.S. and the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU, policy is expected to play a big role in changing the philanthropy landscape in 2018. Income inequality will be another key factor, shaping philanthropic fortunes on one end of the spectrum and fueling political unrest from the other end. Meanwhile, we may be headed toward full-on dependence of digital tools in the sector.

These were some of the key predictions made during Predict-a-Palooza, a virtual roundtable hosted by The Digital Civil Society Lab. During the nearly hour-long conversation (which you can find here), David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy, Trista Harris of the Minnesota Council on Foundations, Julie Broome of the EU Ariadne Network, Crystal Hayling of the Libra Foundation and I tested some of our individual predictions on each other and with an online audience.

From the drivers of change came some more specific predictions. On the one hand, very large donors are likely to become even more influential in the U.S. as public budgets continue to decline and effects of the recent tax bill, expected to dampen the largesse of middle income donors, kick in.

“Wealthy donors have so many different kinds of interests and we’re constantly being surprised by the things they give money too,” Callahan said. “Many of them go for the big NGOs or go to the top universities but quite a few of them are interested in scaling up smaller startup nonprofits. It’s an eclectic array of giving interests.”

In Europe, on the other hand, predictions focused on the growing interest in community philanthropy. Crowdfunding and giving days are also beginning to catch on in Europe, where the phenomenon is just beginning to find its legs.

New technologies received less hype (although blockchain gets a big buzz) and there were guesses about secondary effects such as data breaches and privacy concerns.

“A few, large international NGOs will test accepting donations through blockchain technology to increase transparency,” Harris predicted. “It will be international first and I think it will probably be a large U.S.-based foundation that makes that gift, but i think it will have an international focus.”

With regard to income inequality, there were a number of predictions about the role of social movements, online organizing, and peer-to-peer support. This blended into the issue of donors funding both political action and charity as well as organizations and activists acting in both spheres. Especially given that 2018 is an election year in the USA, the sense was that many individuals might be putting more energy and money into direct political action than into charitable work in the next year.

Finally, there were a number of longer term shifts that panelists thought might lead to some notable change in the next year or two. The shifting bounds between political and charitable action is one example. These lines have been blurring for years, and the recent effort to repeal the Johnson Amendment (part of the tax bill that did not go through) revealed just how tenuous the separation is. The influence of crowdfunding is another example. Predictions in the past have tended to see these platforms as new and disruptive; this year the calls were for more recognition of them as fundamental parts of the giving landscape.

Predicting the future might be a fool’s game, but it’s still helpful to think about both long simmering trends as well as big current events when planning your philanthropy.