In this blog post, Bob Carter, CFRE, Chairman of Carter, shares his predictions for the world of philanthropy in 2024, primarily focused on the U.S., based on his decades-long and prominent career working alongside hundreds of nonprofits around the globe.
You’ve had time now to set goals for 2024, and you may be wondering, “How will current events and trends affect philanthropy, our philanthropic goals and my organization?”
Well, I’ve dusted off my (foggy) crystal ball and had some fun making predictions for the philanthropic sector in 2024. It’s free advice, and you get what you pay for…but here are my best guesses for our upcoming trip around the sun.
1. Philanthropic giving will slow prior to the U.S. presidential election but surge immediately following.
Traditionally, we see a lull in philanthropic giving just before a presidential election as the financial market and collective whole hold their breath to see which party will emerge victorious. But don’t be discouraged – a surge in giving usually follows for two reasons: (1) 50% of the country celebrates their win, feels optimistic and bumps the market back up, and (2) some of those in the losing party donate to causes that they feel may be ignored or mishandled by the party in power.
However, when we look at election years over time, historically, there is not much of a difference in overall giving compared with non-election years (see graph below). I recommend preparing your boards for what may be a small slowdown mid-year, coupled with the optimism of the surge that traditionally follows, and sharing this graph with them to illustrate the importance of staying the course and continuing your fundraising efforts.
The main impact that elections can have on philanthropy is in the form of public policies that our elected leaders champion. I encourage every fundraiser to get involved and stay up to date with public policies that affect the philanthropic sector. The federal charitable tax deduction has been close to the chopping block before…it’s important for us all to pay attention!
2. The federal interest rate will hold or trend downward (I told you it was foggy). Either way, philanthropy will be positively impacted.
Corporations flourish and grow when it’s easier and cheaper to borrow money, and a portion of their success is shared with those who work for them. With more money in their pockets, individuals – who are responsible for 83% of philanthropic giving in the U.S. (when accounting for bequests, gifts from family foundations, etc.) – are more likely to make donations. (Corporations only make up 6% of philanthropic giving, so the majority of their success is given to nonprofit organizations through the generosity of individuals.)
3. Higher education institutions will benefit from more transparency as donor scrutiny heightens.
Following the congressional hearing with presidents from Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT regarding allegations of antisemitism on campus, we will see a significant effect on philanthropic giving to universities and colleges. Donors will more closely scrutinize schools before making a gift and will demand more information regarding how their funds are being used. Higher education can get ahead of this by providing greater transparency to donors about the precise ways their gifts benefit students and their education.
Remember: Courage + Transparency = Trust!
4. The volunteer pool will decrease.
Retired citizens make up the majority of volunteers for nonprofits. Inflation is causing some retirees to return to work, depleting a portion of the volunteer pool. This not only affects programming. As we know, those involved with our organizations are more likely to donate, so it will be of utmost importance for nonprofit leaders to properly steward the volunteers that they do have.
5. Remote vs. in-office work models will start to be revisited.
During and post-pandemic, there was a meteoric rise in remote work, which offered numerous benefits and expanded the talent available to organizations and corporations around the world. However, we are now finding that nonprofits, larger ones in particular, are suffering a bit from this model. Their teams are less cohesive, and they struggle to create the synergy around their mission that is best accomplished when employees have direct contact with those the organization serves or are in a room with others working toward a common goal.
Remote vs. in-office work models will start to be revisited this year, with changes happening slowly over time. We may only see more drastic changes when new, younger leaders take the reins. (Millennials are currently the strongest advocates of remote work, while their Gen Z successors prefer at least some in-person office time. Source.)
6. Nonprofit leaders who embrace AI will experience more success.
Throughout human history, adaptive leaders were more likely to succeed. With limited resources, AI is a tool that nonprofits can leverage to save our most precious resource of all – time. Leaders should embrace AI in meaningful and ethical ways, guiding their teams to adapt the technology so they can work smarter, not harder.
I know I speak for the entire Carter team when I say we wish you all the very best in 2024. No matter what happens, keep moving forward, keep up your important work to improve humanity, and enjoy the ride. Should you ever need support or guidance, you know where to find us, and we would be honored to be your partner.
About the Author
Bob Carter, CFRE - Chairman
Bob Carter, CFRE, is one of the world’s most respected, experienced and recognized experts in institutional strategy and philanthropy. During the past four decades, Bob has strengthened a variety of organizations throughout the world by helping them overcome challenges and capitalize on opportunities to be successful. Bob is currently serving as a member of the Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, where he is a founding board member, and he is Chair Emeritus of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Board of Directors. Learn more about Bob here.
When it comes to transformational change, nonprofits are experts at knowing what they need to achieve but don’t always have the tools they need to get there. Carter makes the journey easier. Co-founded by Bob Carter and Steve Higgins in 2011, Carter gathered a select team of the nation’s most respected nonprofit professionals working to advance philanthropy worldwide in the areas of fundraising, governance and organizational planning. Each Carter consultant brings decades of executive-level development experience to serve as an extension of your team and help you maximize your organization’s potential and better serve your cause. For more information, visit www.carter.global.