Charitable giving has evolved and changed significantly since the early 20th century, when Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller led what has been called the golden age of American philanthropy. It's changing as rapidly today as it ever has, so to be a skillful donor, you might consider the following trends when you make charitable gifts.
There's a movement toward more cooperation in social change efforts among government agencies, academic institutions, institutional funders, and charitable organizations, particularly in public health efforts and in crises such as the financial distress in Detroit. Nonprofits are cooperating with each other more as well; some funders are even starting to make such cooperation a requirement. Although this approach makes it more challenging to measure the impact any single partner has, the greater collective results that networks can achieve are worth it.
Diversity and inclusion
Like everywhere else in the culture, there's concern in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors that people from diverse backgrounds lead efforts, implement programs, and volunteer. Watch particularly for reporting on data collection from the people nonprofits serve. In fact, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has started getting feedback from beneficiaries of its domestic education and global health initiatives.
Achievement measures beyond administrative costs
This metric has been emerging for a while, as even influential organizations such as the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and GuideStar move away from administrative costs as a measure of effectiveness. The new buzzword is "impact," yet however outcomes are expressed, a nonprofit's reporting can help you make sure your donations are making a difference.
Yes, if you're making a charitable gift through most channels, they will end up storing some of your personal information. Goodwill Industries was hacked last year, and credit and debit card information was reportedly stolen. Expect to hear more from nonprofits about how they're protecting your data.
Some things in philanthropy never change, like the good feelings you get when you make effective gifts. And lots of things in charitable giving do change; the ones listed here can help you make more of a difference, so if the organizations you fund don't tell you about them, ask.
Fool contributor Mark Ewert is in no position to give investment advice, so he sticks to charitable giving and philanthropy. You can purchase his new book, The Generosity Path: Finding the Richness in Giving, through his website.