The Year Ahead in Philanthropy

America may be coming off of its most generous year ever. According to Giving USA, 2015 was the country’s most generous year from a philanthropic standpoint, with total giving by both individuals and organizations surpassing $373 billion. The final donation totals for 2016 are still being counted, but it’s a strong possibility that it may have even been a better year than 2015 in terms of donations, which would make 2016 America’s most philanthropic year in history. Either way, this is great news for 2017, which Marts & Lundy predicted would see a 4.3% increase in total giving compared to 2015 levels. But aside from more giving, what other factors will shape the world of philanthropy in 2017?

Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs)

DAFs are philanthropic entities that are administered by public charities, which manage the donations of organizations, families, or even individuals. When a donor contributes to a DAF, they deposit cash or other financial assets, and although they waive their ownership rights to these assets, the donor still has advisory privileges and can thus influence how their donation is invested or distributed.

Every year since 2009, DAFs have seen their assets grow, and giving to DAFs outpaces overall philanthropic giving. In fact, in 2016, a DAF–specifically the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund–raised the most in private support of any U.S. philanthropic or charitable organization for the first time, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. With a record of success like this, DAFs will remain a popular method of philanthropic giving in 2017.

Community Organizations

Historically, community-based charitable organizations only focused on their local area, but with the ease of travel and shipping as well as greater access to information via the Internet, many of these philanthropic groups are now looking beyond their own hometowns. In 2017, a growing number of community organizations will be looking to affect changes beyond the borders of their communities, whether it’s just in the neighboring town or on the other side of the world. They will also be able to learn new strategies and practices from other philanthropic organizations thanks to the Internet, which will help re-energize local philanthropies’ efforts.


For philanthropic organizations, it’s important to have reliable data on the impact they made and how much money they raised, among other things. Now, gathering that data is easier than ever with the help of new technologies, which simplify data entry and analysis, so organizations can focus on what they do well and what they can improve based on statistics. Technology can also help philanthropic organizations to communicate with their volunteers, donors, as well as the populations that they serve.

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