Predict-a-palooza: Civil Society Forecast 2019

On Wednesday, January 23, 2019, I’ll be joining a panel of experts in discussing key trends and predictions for 2019. Our focus will be on civil society, discussing emerging developments in philanthropy, technology, data governance, public policy, and more. You can learn more about, and register for, this webinar organized by Digital Impact, an initiative of the Digital Civil Society Lab at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, here.

3 Predictions:

My first prediction is more open and increasingly hostile conflicts sparking greater nonprofit advocacy efforts. This will play out not only in the political realm, in which nonprofits and philanthropic funds will be heavily involved, but also within the nonprofit sector as people decide there can’t just be political solutions and compromises to moral problems. We are entering into battles on the value and problems of philanthropy, charity’s role vs. government’s role, charity’s roles in politics, tax incentives for charitable giving, fundraising rhetoric, and charity regulation enforcement. We’re also going to see more conflict over who should be funded to advance social good. The barriers to forming a charity are lower than ever, taxable social enterprises continue to rise in popularity, and crowdfunding campaigns are increasingly vying for donors. Conflict isn’t necessarily bad, but nonprofits need to be prepared for our polarized society. Read more here.

My second prediction is a continuing drop in the number of people giving and volunteering. According to recent studies, notably from the Lilly School of Philanthropy, more than two-thirds of Americans donated to charity in 2000, but that figure dropped to 55.5 percent in 2014, and this figure has continued to drop. Part of this is due to more people having less ability to give, but changing demographics and alternatives to charitable giving also play a role. Despite this, so far, overall giving has continued to increase, probably because the wealthy are giving more. But the Tax Act of 2017 is predicted to depress the amount of total giving. The increase in the standard deduction will mean less than 10% of taxpayers will be able to itemize and benefit from a charitable contribution deduction. In addition, the estate and gift tax exemptions have doubled and there are new limits on deductions for state and local taxes and home mortgage interest. But it may take taxpayers a couple of years to figure this out.

My third prediction is a greater focus by nonprofits on diversity, equity, and inclusion. This seems like a no-brainer that’s long been in motion, but that’s not the case. In a 2017 BoardSource survey, 90% of CEOs and board chairs, and 84% of board members, were white, and 27% of the boards were entirely white, which is little changed from from the findings in BoardSource’s first survey in 1994. In addition, the percentage of philanthropic funding going to organizations focused on marginalized communities is abysmal. But we’ll see a notable shift this year. Politicians and corporations are starting to get “woke” at least in terms of understanding the actual and potential power of minority communities, and they are designing more campaigns, services, and products specific to these communities. While the nonprofit sector should really be leading on DEI prioritization, as a sector, it hasn’t. But nonprofits are being called out, and many anchor organizations are responding. Others will follow, and if they don’t, they’ll lose relevance.

Wildcard Prediction:

A very large, well-known nonprofit will adopt a Co-CEO structure, increasing consideration of more shared leadership models. Salesforce went there last year. Oracle, Samsung, and Deutsche Bank have also had Co-CEOs.


Liberatory – adjective describing a value or practice of freeing a group from social or economic constraints or discrimination, especially arising from traditional role expectations or bias.