The Future of Philanthropy

By Victoria Blanco
Illustration by Kelsey King

We’re in a time of flux for philanthropy. As economies become more global and technology advances, the ways in which we connect with one another are also changing—often for the better. Opportunities to improve philanthropy abound today, enabled by our society’s shift toward participatory governance and connectivity through technology.

New Governance Methods

These global changes are impacting philanthropy by overturning old models of governance and creating space for the new. Philanthropy is turning away from the traditional top-down governance model, in which a single board follows an established process to determine who receives funds. “Traditionally, folks that are making decisions are not from the communities that they’re making decisions about,” says Trista Harris, president of MCF. We have yet to see a solid new model of philanthropy emerge—but we are getting plenty of hints of what the future holds.

Even though uncertainty is inherent in a fast-changing world, one constant remains: people want to give to make their communities better. But they’re looking for ways to have greater impact, to form deeper relationships. The future of philanthropy lies at the nexus of these desires, born out of a greater sense of urgency to create a more just and inclusive world.

Imagine the philanthropy board rooms of the near future inviting people from the communities impacted by giving. Involving community members in decisions about their neighborhood helps close the gap between donor and recipient and opens the space for relationships, communication, and trust. “If donors are really far away, it’s hard to understand which solutions would have the biggest impact. Having community members’ voices around the table often changes the course of the conversation,” says Harris.

Faster Philanthropy

People also want to be able to give spontaneously—they want to react to a news story, a social media post, to an ad on public transportation. Technology is enabling more frequent giving through secure websites where, with a few clicks, one can donate money during the walk between coffee shop and office. Giving has become part of everyday life. The impact of giving is already increasing through technology; money is reaching more people at a faster rate. This trend will continue.

What is best about philanthropy—the spirit of generosity, the caring—remains the same. The future will continue to foster good will and will look for ways to maximize impact while modeling the just and equal society we all need.


Victoria Blanco is a freelance writer from El Paso, Texas. Her writing has appeared and is forthcoming in Pollen Midwest, Fourth Genre, Bat City Review, and Catapult. She has been awarded fellowships from Fulbright, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the University of Minnesota. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two sons.


Giving Forum Spring 2018