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Trista Harris' 2020 Philanthropy Predictions

Monday, December 9, 2019

Trista Harris' 2020 Philanthropy Predictions

SCG's Back to the Future blog series is a collection of conversations with philanthropic leaders exploring the key trends that shape the contours of the future. This series aims to expand our thinking on a variety of issue areas, as well as provide funders with the insights necessary to maximize their impact. 

In the early 20th century, futurists were inspired by speed, technology, and modernity to create an avant-garde art movement. Today, shifting demographics and cutting-edge technologies are changing the world faster than ever. These developments have prompted the private sector to adopt foresight as a strategy to analyze trends and determine what is possible, preferable, and probable in the future. Nonprofits and social movements have also begun to adjust their work to meet the challenges of the coming societal and environmental transformations. 

In 2019, it was philanthropy’s turn. This year, our team at Southern California Grantmakers selected futurism to be the heart of our 2019 Annual Conference, Foresight Philanthropy. By asking our network to cast their eyes forward, we could focus on adapting to emerging trends and co-create a future that was equitable to all people. Through the tools of futurism, we knew funders could sharpen their grantmaking strategies, invigorate cross-sector collaborations, and prepare to be more dynamic changemakers. In the following months, we continued these conversations and efforts by inviting philanthropic leaders to discuss the future of key issues areas in our Back to the Future blog series.

One of our primary inspirations for the conference’s future-focused theme was Trista Harris, President of FutureGood and cutting-edge philanthropic futurist. Trista has spearheaded the efforts to make the often confusing and complicated tools of futurism accessible to the field of philanthropy. At Foresight Philanthropy, Trista enlightened our audience with “The Future Started Yesterday,” a plenary focused on using the tools of foresight to prepare for the challenges  that will impact our grantees and communities.

Every year, Trista Harris and her team of researchers at FutureGood curate a list of trends that will impact foundations and nonprofits in the coming months. SCG is thrilled to share their 2020 predictions as the concluding piece of our “Back to the Future” blog series.

Funders help defend democracy.

As we see the United States becomes more divided and instability grow abroad, foundations will invest more resources into strengthening democracy. To support these efforts, foundations will create spaces for communities to collectively solve complex issues, reinvigorate our civics curriculums in schools, and ensure the safety of elections locally and globally. We will see networks like Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement become key places where funders go to connect about these issues.

Institutions examine their impact on the environment.

As the climate crisis worsens, foundations will critically examine how their institutions are impacting the environment. We will see foundations begin to divest from fossil fuels, add solar panels to their buildings, encourage remote work, replace in-person meetings with webinars, and pay for carbon credits when their staff travel. 

Universal Basic Income on the map.

With artificial intelligence and robotics’ emerging impact on our laborforce, the financial model for work will have to change. Universal Basic Income sets a floor for everyone, whether they are working or not. This amount is often described as about $12,000 a year and companies and higher-income people are taxed to cover this amount. Foundations will be on the cutting edge of testing this idea for scale.

Workplaces support staff during times of rapid transformation.

Foundations will begin to think more deeply about employee wellness. The old paradigm that “doing good” in the social sector will shield you from the stresses of work will no longer be enough. Foundations will become frontline actors in a whole scale transformation of society by investing in employee wellness programs, offering more options for remote work, adding more vacation days, and improving their organizational cultures. 

Equity minded algorithms.

A 2019 study published in Science found that an algorithm widely used by US hospitals to determine how to allocate care for more than 200 million patients, was less likely to refer black people than white people who were equally sick to programs that aim to improve care for patients with complex medical needs. We are just beginning to understand how algorithms are expanding disparities. Foundations will begin to take an active role in funding solutions to this growing problem.

Foundations become more digitally savvy.

Foundations will begin to add Chief Digital Officers (CDO’s) who are tasked with leading digital engagement efforts, maximizing the efficiency of grants management systems, financial systems, and relationship management databases. These CDO’s will hire staff and consultants with expertise in automation, to limit the amount of time that staff spend on repetitive duties like checking nonprofit status, updating databases, and managing reporting and instead use that time to deepen relationships in community. Foundations (and nonprofits) that don’t invest in staff in this area will be disrupted externally or internally by a new generation of self-automators


Trista Harris is a philanthropic futurist and nationally known as a passionate advocate for leaders in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. She is also the author of the books How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar and FutureGood: How to Use Futurism to Save the World. She is a President of FutureGood, a consultancy focused on helping visionaries build a better future. 


Other Back to the Future Blogs: 

"Nothing Without Us": SCG's Journey to Inclusive Design

Trends in Education Philanthropy: A Q&A with Celine Coggins

The Future of Art Funding: A Conversation with Vijay Gupta and James Herr 

What is the Future of Work?: A Conversation with Tracie Neuhaus and Michele Prichard 

Designing the Future of Health: Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Strategic Foresight


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