Grantmakers to Demand More of Philanthropy

A new survey by Exponent Philanthropy shows the vast majority of its members (82%) expect the institution of philanthropy to play a more important role in society as a result of recent changes in Washington, DC. Issued in late March to Exponent Philanthropy’s members – foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors – the informal “Pulse Check” survey looked at how changes today in politics may impact philanthropic behavior in the year ahead, both in terms of giving practices and investments.

“Our members have made it clear that regardless of their political leanings, as grantmakers, they care about and are impacted by what is happening in Government today,” commented, Henry L. Berman, Exponent Philanthropy’s chief executive officer. “The percentage of Exponent Philanthropy members who expect to make changes to their philanthropy as a result of current events is significant. Whether someone sees these changes as rife with risk or possibility, this survey demonstrates a shared commitment among philanthropists to making the world a better place.”

Major findings from the survey include:

4 Out Of 5 Grantmakers Agree: Philanthropy Will Play A More Important Role In Society

53% of survey respondents agreed with the statement “In light of recent changes in Washington, I expect philanthropy to play a more important role in our society moving forward,” and 29% strongly agreed with that same statement.

In anonymous comments, respondents expressed an increased urgency to address funding gaps created by proposed government cuts to social programs. Other comments pointed to a need for greater advocacy around specific causes. Still, others spoke to the opportunity for a more vigorous philanthropy sector, driven by the anticipation of robust financial markets.

Almost A Quarter Of Grantmakers Expect To Make Changes To Giving In 2017 As A Result

22% of respondents expect to make changes to their philanthropic giving in 2017 as a direct result of recent changes in Washington. “Philanthropic giving” is a catchall phrase that captures grantmaking, giving strategy, and causes supported. Of this 22% subset: a third (33%) expect to increase giving in 2017, while just 3% plan to decrease giving.

1 Out Of 10 Grantmakers Expect To Make Changes To Investing In 2017 As A Result

Only 9% of respondents expect to make changes to how they invest their philanthropic assets as a direct result of recent changes in Washington. 30% of them may make changes to their investments, while the largest percentage, 60% do not plan to make changes to their investments as a direct result of changes in Washington.

Some respondents provided anonymous comments elaborating on their survey responses that allow for additional insight into the wide array of viewpoints and expectations reflected in the survey:

“I’m hoping that we will soon see a more robust growth in the US economy. We are hopeful that our investment returns (the Trump bump) will enable us to increase philanthropy to [causes we care about].”

“[We are] seriously considering spending down, as the issues we care about are being threatened.”

“Philanthropy does not have the resources to replace government programs, so it will force giving away from “nice to have programs” to a stop gap effort of trying to fill holes in basic services … It’s an unsettling time for the vulnerable among us.”

“If the changes in Washington lead to less government regulation and interference in society, our philanthropic goals will have greater effect.”

“… the positive changes which are occurring in Washington will reduce government spending; thus, not-for-profit entities will be seeking other sources of funding. Therefore, the requests for grants from our Foundation will increase.”

“I don’t expect philanthropy’s role to be any more or less important in our society, though I do expect it will be more visible, and that philanthropists may work in different ways.”

Learn more about the survey on the Exponent Philanthropy website.

Jeanne Metzger

Jeanne leads Exponent Philanthropy's development, marketing and membership efforts and is a member of the leadership team. She is keenly focused on maximizing Exponent Philanthropy’s resources, expanding its reach, and elevating its position within the philanthropic sector.