Donors Seek Solutions From All Areas of Society, Study Finds

Donors can identify a wide range of pressing social and environmental issues in the world today but are not particularly optimistic that their giving alone will solve them, a study by Fidelity Charitable finds.

The report, The Future of Philanthropy (24 pages, PDF), found that Americans increasingly believe it will take more than funding of traditional nonprofits to solve the world's most pressing challenges, which according to a survey of thirty-two hundred donors include the development of treatments and cures for disease, access to basic health services, and food insecurity. Only 17 percent of survey respondents said they were "strongly optimistic" that giving alone would lead to fixes for the issues they care most about, and many said they view public-private partnerships as equally important to the development of solutions for such problems. Many respondents also said they believe individuals and businesses alike should stand up and fund solutions to society’s challenges.

However, survey respondents were almost evenly split between whether such funding should come from businesses (45 percent) or individuals/philanthropy (43 percent). And while nonprofits were seen as most likely to create solutions (39 percent) to social and environmental challenges, donors also are looking to public-private partnerships (36 percent), individuals (33 percent), religious institutions (32 percent), universities (26 percent), and businesses and social enterprises (24 percent) to contribute, with only 19 percent saying they expect solutions to come from government. The survey also found that 27 percent of respondents said that technological advances have changed the way they giving; that 20 percent of respondents said their giving has been affected by changing views on generational wealth or increased access to charitable planning services and giving vehicles; and that 41 percent said they have changed the way they give due to improved knowledge of nonprofit effectiveness.

"As we look to the future, all of these trends point to donors becoming more hands on with their giving, not less," said Fidelity Charitable president Pamela Norley. "Americans will continue to prioritize giving and integrate their approach to philanthropy even more fully into their daily lives. With this focus on effectiveness, they'll become even more thoughtful about where and how they give, driving a need and demand for resources to help them."