News and analysis
January 12, 2015

6 Trends to Watch in 2015

Zorigoo Tugsbayar

Gerald Chan and his family made a $350-million pledge to Harvard University's school of public health in September 2014.

Giving: Back From Its Recession Depths

"Giving USA" researchers last summer predicted that annual charitable giving in 2015 might top its pre-recession peak of $350-billion. Despite stock-market volatility and weaknesses in the global economy, experts say we’re headed for another year of increased giving, thanks in part to an acceleration in the generational transfer of family wealth. Big gifts in 2014, like the Gerald Chan family donation of $350-million to the Harvard School of Public Health, made a media splash that, along with growth in ultrawealthy Americans, will encourage others to think big in 2015, says Paul Connolly, director of philanthropic advisory services at Bessemer Trust. "We probably will see more huge gifts over the next year."

Generation X’s Time at the Top

Nonprofits and foundations across the country are seeing churn in the leadership ranks—often baby boomers giving way to Gen X. In Charlotte, N.C., for instance, dozens of leaders have stepped down in the past couple years, many after decades at the helm. "There’s no question we’re starting to see this," says Frances Kunreuther, co-director of the Building Movement Project, which analyzes nonprofit leadership.

A Crowdfunding Platform’s New Mission

In a new wrinkle for online giving platforms, GlobalGiving is nudging the more than 4,000 nonprofits and social entrepreneurs it raises money for to improve their work and not just chase dollars. One carrot: Groups that collect and use feedback from those they serve will be awarded extra points in GlobalGiving’s rating system—points that should earn them more attention and more donors. "We’ll tell them, ‘We want to accelerate innovation but also greater effectiveness,’ " says co-founder Mari Kuraishi.

Inspiring Donors to Raise Money

Nonprofits are increasingly offering how-to fundraising help and technology to supporters, some of whom are inspired to spark the next ice-bucket challenge. Last summer’s fundraising juggernaut is not likely to be repeated, says David Hessekiel, president of Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum, but smart nonprofits should harness the passion of would-be fundraisers. The World Wildlife Fund last spring started Panda Nation, which helps supporters turn birthdays, bar or bat mitzvahs, bake sales, and athletic competitions into fundraising events.

In Defense of High Costs and Big Salaries

Dan Pallotta, a controversial but increasingly influential former charity-events organizer and author, is planning a 60-mile walk at the end of June to raise money for an organization that will defend charities against charges they overspend on salaries and fundraising. A growing number of nonprofit leaders are pushing to get donors to pay more attention to a charity’s accomplishments and less to its overhead costs. Jacob Harold, president of GuideStar, says the charity-information group in 2015 will start publishing quantitative data that organizations provide about what they have achieved.

Edward Snowden and Nonprofit Privacy

The nonprofit world will have to pay increasing attention to the kind of data-privacy questions that have surfaced since Mr. Snowden started releasing documents about the way government taps commercial data, says Rob Reich, a Stanford University professor who co-leads the Digital Civil Society Lab. For example, in case of a lawsuit seeking information, he says, who owns the text messages that a charity collects from its beneficiaries over for-profit phone networks?

—Drew Lindsay and Suzanne Perry

Send an e-mail to Drew Lindsay and Suzanne Perry.