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2023 Trends in Philanthropy: Sector Leaders Look Ahead

To kick off the new year, we asked a cross-section of thought leaders across philanthropy to tell us what they see as the top trends for 2023. If we were to identify a common theme, it would undoubtedly be collaboration. Many of these sector experts emphasize the importance and value of working together to tackle the challenges ahead and drive philanthropy forward in the new year. Read on for insights and inspiration from membership organizations, consultants, and other change-makers.

“There is an opportunity in philanthropy for true collaboration in 2023. We are all calling for legitimate partnerships to tackle today's challenges. This means philanthropy investing in the things that create lasting change, such as top-notch workers, effective employee training, performance measurement systems, and adequate information technology. These investments in 'overhead' are required to stabilize organizations and increase their effectiveness. It also means working across disciplines, disincentivizing competition, and seeking opportunities for us all to work side by side.”

Lianna Olds, Deputy Director for Partnerships, Nonprofit Association of Washington

“The biggest opportunity for philanthropy is to continue working together to tackle systemic problems in partnership with communities. 'Innovation' invites potential failure—foundations are poised to take on this risk and help new and creative solutions flourish. Grantmakers are also well-positioned to institute data-driven and proven approaches and to be responsive to immediate community needs. That’s more than one organization can manage on its own, so we have no choice but to collaborate!” 

Sarah Mann Wilcox, Executive Director, North Carolina Network of Grantmakers

“The biggest opportunity I see for philanthropic organizations in 2023 is the hunger and need for more in-person convenings and connection points. Virtual gatherings and meetings are here to stay, and this has been a game changer for more efficient and flexible work environments. But we are seeing an uptick in organizations carving out time for more in-person workshops, summits, and retreats to recharge their teams and provide opportunities for collaboration.”

Ashley Dietz, President and CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network

“Between grant applications, reports, and demographic data requests, nonprofits are increasingly burdened with asks to provide information in different formats and mediums. We see the sector aligning to streamline and reduce these requests, looking to places where data already exists and is shareable—including Candid’s nonprofit profiles on GuideStar—with funders taking more responsibility for retrieving it.”

Michele Dilworth, Senior Director of Partnerships, Candid

“Choosing to lead in 2023 means choosing to embrace the humane but vital role of technology in our sector’s future. Whether that means funding shared data infrastructure or building systems for real-time feedback from partners and nonprofits, the forward-thinking foundation knows that investing in integrated, adaptive, and accessible tech closes the digital divide and enables MORE time, not less, to build relationships and trust.”

Chantal Forster, Executive Director, Technology Association of Grantmakers (TAG)

“Let's make 2023 a great year for funders and nonprofits to build equal partnerships. To create those equal partnerships, foundations can fund general operating support and streamline applications and reporting processes. We are all working together to make the world a better place—so let's work better together in 2023.”

Kimberly Hays de Muga, GPC, and Amanda Day, GPC, co-hosts of the Fundraising HayDay Podcast

“2023 is projected to be a difficult year financially. However, this isn't our first time at the recession rodeo! We know what's worked in the past and how organizations have been able to grow during tough economic times. Work hard to build relationships with all your donors, not just the major givers. Connect with people, engage them, and share with them the impact they are having. Two ways you can do that is to Flip the Script and pay more attention to those who donate in small amounts.”

Ephraim Gopin, Principal, 1832 Communications

“2023 is shaping up to be a year full of uncertainties, just like the past few years. As a result, nonprofits are rightly concerned about what to do to maintain or even increase revenues. The key opportunity for organizations is to invest wisely in the resources that will create sustainable success. We saw a number of organizations cut back on fundraising staff and resources during the last few years, and they are suffering because of this. If a recession happens in the next few months, as many predict, smart nonprofits will take this time to prepare for the economic expansion that will certainly follow.”

Cherian Koshy, Founder, Nonprofit Operating System 

“Working collaboratively has always been advantageous in the philanthropic community, as building on existing assets and sharing resources maximizes impact. The global nonprofit community plays a critical role in addressing the sustainable development goals (SDG) by providing the 'boots on the ground' needed to create change. Even if your efforts are local, they impact the larger system. And your local efforts can be strengthened by work done in other sectors or on a larger scale. In 2023, GrantStation will be working to mobilize and advance the third sector to collaboratively impact the SDGs through education, partnerships, and of course, finding funds. We are better together.”

Alice Ruhnke, President, GrantStation

“In the wake of the pandemic and in the midst of global economic challenges, nonprofits are a beacon of hope. People are seeking ways to have a positive impact in the world—and nonprofits can provide that. 2023 is an invaluable opportunity to connect in person with our donors, partners, and volunteers and invite them more deeply into our mission work.”

Kristin Raack, CFRE, GPC, Principal, AltruNext

“Creating effective partnerships across the board is a key opportunity across the nonprofit sector—not only between nonprofit organizations, but between foundations, individuals, and the for-profit sector. Learning to partner well can be a catalyst for change in and of itself. Basically, it allows capacity building to happen successfully. I hope well-thought-out and developed partnerships take a front seat on leaders’ to-do lists as the nonprofit sector continues to evolve.”

Mandy Pearce, Owner, Funding For Good

“In a word, a key opportunity for 2023 is 'collaboration.' More than ever before, I see grantmakers opening their doors to work in true partnership with grantees and constituents. Funders like the Weingart Foundation in Los Angeles are implementing groundbreaking approaches meant to level a traditionally lopsided dynamic. Too often, grantmakers’ power has intimidated those they hope to serve, leaving important voices silent. The current focus on equity, so long overdue, helps to encourage a more authentic collaboration across philanthropy.” 

Cathleen E. Kiritz, President and CEO, The Grantsmanship Center

“The greatest opportunity for philanthropy, specifically for scholarship providers, is to treat students as experts of their experiences and needs. Students should not only inform us why we do our work but how we do it. Treating students as our partners in this work means trusting that they are sharing accurate information to the best of their ability, removing barriers to access whenever and wherever possible, and including them as decision makers in planning and selection processes.”

Jackie Bright., Executive Director, National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA)

“2023 is likely to be a difficult year for nonprofit organizations. Inflation pressure, wage pressure, and increased demand for services will likely continue or increase significantly. The same forces, combined with the worst market performance since the beginning of the great recession will, in all likelihood, cause a decline in overall giving this year. A key opportunity exists for the philanthropic community to lead the sector by strategically focusing, and even increasing, their investments in verticals that have the greatest impact in difficult economic conditions, including housing, job development, and food security.”

Patrick Callihan, CEO, TechImpact

“I think that a key opportunity in philanthropy in 2023 is to reflect together on lessons learned during the pandemic, as well as during national and international conflicts, and build upon those lessons to strengthen the impact of philanthropy. Lessons like increased flexibility in moving restricted grant funds to general operating support were incredible during the COVID-19 pandemic. How could that positive action turn into a lesson in the grantmaker and grantee relationship moving forward? Lessons like the way that organizations were agile and pivoted during international conflicts to ensure that those in need of support received it. How could that positive action turn into a lesson in philanthropy?”

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President, DH Leonard Consulting

“In 2022, the Minnesota Council on Foundations launched a committee comprised of staff from both foundations and nonprofit organizations to revisit the Minnesota common grant application. This application was once a staple and had not been modified in 22 years. In 2023, we plan to introduce a solution that will benefit both foundations and nonprofits to make the grant process more equitable.”

Kristen Cullen, Director of Membership and Communication, Minnesota Council on Foundations

"As we enter 2023, we’re giving deep consideration to what might be possible if we work as one—across all systems. We know that what has worked in one phase of philanthropy may not be what is needed in the future. Our opportunity is to shift our perspective, our posture, and our approach. At Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), we are relentlessly pursuing a future where everyone belongs. Part of this is building a team and organization where trust is at our core, we lead with empathy, we foster creativity to replace the status quo, we take risks that could change trajectories, we emphasize the necessity of rest and rejuvenation, and when we work as one, we believe a bright, just, and sustainable future is possible."

Andrea Dicks, President, Community Foundations of Canada

Join the Conversation

What do you see as the top trends for the philanthropic sector in the coming year? Would you add any not mentioned here? Join our 2023 Trends in Philanthropy discussions for nonprofits and funders in Compass, Foundant’s online community for philanthropy, to share your thoughts and learn what your peers are doing to prepare for or implement these ideas. 

About the Author

Foundant Technologies has specialized in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through innovative software solutions and exceptional client experiences since 2007. Passionate about philanthropy, our team is dedicated to meeting the unique needs of grantmakers, scholarship providers, community foundations, and nonprofits to enable change-makers to make the world a better place for all.

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