9 trends in 9 minutes—here are some of the biggest trends in philanthropy that we expect will impact fundraising in 2024.
We predict that fundraising in 2024 will continue to face challenges related to the generosity crisis. However, we also find plenty of room for optimism. Here are the nine trends we predict will have the most impact on fundraising in 2024 as well as some ideas to stimulate giving.
Trend #1: Will Instagram Kill Philanthropy?
Keeping up with the Joneses has always been human nature. But Instagram and TikTok have taken social competition to the extremes.
From lavish home renovations to over-the-top vacations in selfie-worth sites, it’s never been easier to broadcast (and witness) conspicuous consumption.
Many of today’s donors are forced to make a choice: should they give to their favorite charity or embark on an expensive adventure worthy of showcasing on social media. Too often, charitable gifts become collateral damage. At the same time, the definition of generosity is becoming fuzzier. Roundups at the cash register or you-buy-one-we-give-one campaigns by brands such as Bombas make us feel like we’re charitable when we’re really just part of a marketing campaign.
It’s no wonder we are becoming a less-generous nation. Fewer than half of American households today give to charity, down from two-thirds in the early 2000s. In 2022, only 1.7% of our disposable income went to charity. This is tied with 1995 as the lowest rate on record.
Combatting the generosity crisis will take some intentionality, and we plan on spending 2024 advocating for donor retention, good stewardship, and stronger donor relationships.
Trend #2: Organizations that Prioritize Donor Relationship-Building Will See the Largest Gains in Giving
There’s a simple formula that will increase your giving levels in 2024. Get to know your donors’ philanthropic priorities and then show them how you can be their partner in solving problems they care deeply about.
It sounds so simple, right? It is, and the organizations that master relationship-building in 2024 will see the biggest gains.
Authentic relationship-building isn’t surface knowledge like whether a donor opens an enewsletter or if they’ve played in a golf tournament. Knowing your donors goes much deeper than that.
Start by identifying and qualifying prospective mid-level and major donors through a combination of wealth screening, peer review, assessment of past giving, and predictive donor modeling. Create a personalized engagement and cultivation strategy for each of these donors. Ask them questions like:
- What are your top two philanthropic passions and why?
- When did you first get involved with our organization, and what connected you to us?
- What about our work makes you proud?
- We are considering a program to address XYZ. What do you think about that approach?
Only when you’ve properly cultivated these donors should you put a proposal in front of them. Honor them as a person instead of treating them like an ATM.
Trend #3: It’s Time for Donor Walls to Make a Comeback
We’ve stopped emphasizing public donor recognition at the same time prospective donors are feeling social pressure to make a purchase instead of making a gift.
We’ve removed giving levels from donor lists and eliminated donors from annual or impact reports. In theory, these practices are positive because they celebrate the pure joy of giving, regardless of the amount.
But as we grapple with a generosity crisis, perhaps it’s time to rethink this approach. Let’s bring back tasteful public donor displays, complete with gift ranges that recognize donors at every level. Let’s celebrate the decision to serve others instead of enriching the self.
There’s a reason naming rights lead to larger gifts…or why peer-to-peer fundraising is so effective. Ego (someone’s sense of their own worth) often plays a role in the decision to give, so we need to oblige. If philanthropy is to survive and thrive, we need to tap into human nature and provide social capital to donors. Bring back donor walls. Publish giving lists that sort donors by giving levels and celebrate donors’ acts of generosity. Create new opportunities for donors to keep up with the Joneses—opportunities rooted in philanthropy.
Trend #4: Growing Economy Will Support Rise in 2024 Philanthropic Giving
At its December 2023 meeting, the Federal Reserve upgraded its Gross Domestic Product estimate (the monetary value of all finished goods and services within a specific time period), predicting 2.6 percent growth in 2023.
They are projecting GDP growth in 2024 to be 1.4 percent—more modest growth than in 2023, but growth, nonetheless.
They also predict more good news on the inflation and unemployment fronts. Unemployment rates, the Fed believes, will remain largely unchanged at 3.8 percent, which is historically low. Rates of inflation are also expected to fall.
Most importantly for fundraisers, the Fed hinted at three interest rate cuts in 2024 as long as certain indicators hold true (Cox, 2023). Lower interest rates mean a stronger stock market. Because stock market gains are highly correlated with increases in philanthropic giving, low interest rates are welcome news for nonprofits (Giving USA Foundation, 2023).
Trend #5: Watch for Rage Giving After November's Election
We saw rage giving reach a peak after the 2016 presidential election, Black Lives Matter protests, and then again after the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022.
According to AFP’s 2021 report Engagement: All the Rage—Philanthropy Amid Crisis, rage giving is “sparked by a divisive political moment, fueled by extensive media coverage around said moment, and characterized by a sudden, unexpected increase in donations and a strong emotional response in donors” (Burack, 2023).
We will see rage giving soar again if the presidential election is a repeat of 2016. These gifts will get a lot of attention, but they won’t have a huge impact on giving’s bottom line. Rage gifts tend to be small and from first-time donors to an organization; they use their gift to make a statement. For organizations receiving these gifts, the challenge will be to convert them into repeat givers by sharing the impact of their gift and stewarding them to give again.
Trend #6: Jewish Donor Giving Will Shift and Have a Major Impact Across All Sectors
Many Jewish donors we’ve spoken with are overhauling their giving in 2024, and the change will be felt across Jewish and non-Jewish organizations alike.
Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity that has its roots in the teaching of the Torah; it is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients (DeGroot, n.d.). In fact, of America’s 25 “most generous givers” in 2022 according to Forbes, 12 have Jewish backgrounds. Most Jewish donors, particularly the most prominent philanthropists, have traditionally not focused their giving on Jewish causes (Elia-Shalev, 2023).
After the October 7, 2023 terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel, these giving patterns will change, and will be felt throughout 2024.
“We are fulfilling the pledges we’ve made to non-Jewish organizations,” explained a prominent Jewish philanthropist, “but we will direct all new giving to Jewish causes, specifically those fighting antisemitism.”
As the war in Gaza continues, American Jewish communities will likely continue to shift their giving towards supporting Israel and domestic Jewish causes. In a single month, Jewish Federations of North America’s Israel Emergency Fund raised $600 million. Robert Kraft, New England Patriots owner, just dedicated $100 million to fight antisemitism (Di Mento, 2023).
For many academic institutions, the shift will be even more dramatic as acts of antisemitism continue across campuses. Billionaire donors have already pulled or are threatening to rescind their gifts to universities including Columbia, Penn, and Yale. More than 1,600 Jewish Harvard alumni threatened to pull their gifts to the university without meaningful reforms on campus that ensure the safety of students (Goodkind, 2023).
“I am not giving to universities anymore,” another Jewish donor remarked. “We’ve shifted all that giving directly to Hillel [an on-campus Jewish organization for students].”
Trend #7: Talk of Changes to Charitable Deductions Will Intensify
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (also known as the Trump-era tax cuts) transformed philanthropic giving when it doubled the standard deduction.
Since the act’s passage, fewer people have been able to itemize and claim their deductions, including their charitable deductions. Because less than 10% of taxpayers now have a tax incentive to give, giving has declined. To be clear, the TCJA is not the only reason behind the generosity crisis, but it’s part of the puzzle.
These tax cuts are set to expire at the end of 2025—just 24 months from now. Who knows if Congress will choose to extend these policies or not but expect to hear more talk about the impeding expiration and what it may mean for charitable giving.
To counter the declines caused by TCJA, Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced legislation called the Charitable Act in early 2023. The legislation allows taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions (roughly 90% of taxpayers) to claim a charitable giving deduction up to $4,600 for individuals/$9,200 for joint filers in addition to claiming the standard deduction itself. A bipartisan group announced similar legislation in the House last summer (Policy Issue: Universal Charitable Deduction, 2023).
We hope that this legislation will continue to gain real traction in 2024. The deduction won’t fix the generosity crisis or make up for all declines in philanthropic giving, but it’s a start. Anything that stimulates the act of giving is a very good thing.
Trend #8: Safety Will Continue to Be a Critical Focus, Especially for Independent School Families
Safety will continue to be a critical priority for independent school donors.
Many parents choose to send their children to an independent school because they feel it’s a safer environment.
For independent schools considering a capital campaign, safety should be woven into the campaign at some level. Donors may not want all of their gifts to be dedicated to safety-related priorities, but they will continue to use safety as a fulcrum for how much and whether or not they give.
Trend #9: Nonprofits Will Embrace AI; Many Will Stumble
AI will help us tackle the generosity crisis in 2024, as long as we use it correctly.
In 2024 nonprofits will really begin using AI; we suggest using it for two tasks: Identifying new prospective major donors and building the framework for authentic relationships with all donors. Framework is an important distinction because AI cannot take the place of a human for building authentic relationships.
Donor CRMs are a wealth of information—too much for a human to process effectively. AI can unify that data to determine which donors are best for moves management strategies. Using wealth screening and behavior profiles, AI can mine your data to find lower-level donors who match your existing major donors. It can screen people who have been to your events or who have volunteered in the past. Using this information, AI can help prioritize which donors to cultivate and solicit as major donors.
AI will also help build better donor communications journeys that pull donors in proactively, instead of waiting for donors to self-identify. By understanding donors’ preferences, the events they attend, or the mailings they respond to, AI can increase the level of personalized communications based on donors’ interest. Appeal letters or newsletter stories can be tailored to match what moves the recipient.
Used incorrectly, AI will backfire and erode donor relationships. For understaffed development shops, the temptation to use AI to write generic emails, appeal letters, or other collateral will be hard to resist. But content that reads like it’s written by a robot will turn donors off.
Remember: AI can’t replace real engagement. It can’t take a donor to coffee and learn why your donor is passionate about solving homelessness. AI can’t connect your donor with a researcher studying the disease that struck her father, or parents with the theater director who is shaping their child’s artistic future. Those interactions are priceless and should never be left to tech.
Read more about AI in this report: AI Donor Communications: the Good, the Bad, and What Can’t Be Left to the Robots.
Bonus Trend: Nonprofit Staff Burnout is Real
More and more, we are hearing words like "exhausted," "burned out," and "disengaged" from our nonprofit colleagues.
It’s why our hands-on approach to fundraising counsel resonates with so many.
Data backs up the anecdotal. A nationwide survey conducted by the National Council of Nonprofits found a majority of nonprofits have more vacancies now than before the pandemic (2023). Waiting lists are longer because most vacancies are in jobs that interact with the public.
This chart shows the reasons behind the vacancies. It’s no surprise that salary is at the top of the list.
The nonprofits that steward their staff the same way they steward (or should steward) their donors are the ones with fewest vacancies.
For suggestions on how to reduce your staff turnover, read this article.
About the Author
Written by Jessica Browning, with input from the entire Winkler Group team. Jessica Browning serves as Winkler Group Principal and Executive Vice President and is a former member of the Giving USA Editorial Review Board. She received a B.A. from Duke University and an M.A. and M.B.A from the College of William & Mary. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIn.
Burack, E. (2023, January 3). How rage giving became philanthropy’s new normal. Town & Country. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/money-and-power/a40302634/rage-giving-philanthropy-trend/
Cox, J. (2023, December 14). Fed holds rates steady, indicates three cuts coming in 2024. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/12/13/fed-interest-rate-decision-december-2023.html
DeGroot, J. (n.d.). Jewish Philanthropy: The concept of Tzedakah | Learning to give. https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/jewish-philanthropy-concept-tzedakah
Di Mento, M. (2023, December 11). New england patriots owner robert kraft gives $100 million to fight antisemitism. The Chronicle of Philanthropy. https://www.philanthropy.com/article/new-england-patriots-owner-robert-kraft-gives-100-million-to-fight-antisemitism
Elia-Shalev, A. (2023, January 26). Half of US’s 25 most generous philanthropists are jews. Few give to jewish groups. The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/half-of-us-25-most-generous-philanthropists-are-jews-few-give-to-jewish-groups/
Giving USA Foundation. (2023). Giving USA 2023: The annual report on philanthropy for the year 2022. https://store.givingusa.org/pages/annual-subscription
Goodkind, N. (2023, November 11). More than 1,600 jewish harvard alumni threaten to withdraw donations over antisemitism concerns. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2023/11/11/economy/harvard-alumni-donations-antisemitism/index.html
National Council of Nonprofits. (2023). 2023 nonprofit workforce survey results: Communities suffer as the nonprofit workforce shortage crisis continues. https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/nonprofit-workforce-shortage-crisis
Policy issue: Universal Charitable Deduction. (2023, September 11). United Philanthropy Forum. https://www.unitedphilforum.org/resources/policy-issue-universal-charitable-deduction