Top Nonprofit Trends of 2019

The nonprofit sector is rapidly evolving. Charities that want to succeed in the coming year will need to stay ahead of the curve by studying the list below, which contains the top nonprofit trends of 2019.

Rejecting Tainted Money

Fundraising ethics became a central concern in 2019 amid several scandals involving high-profile donors. For example, many organizations struggled to distance themselves from philanthropist Jeffrey Epstein after he was charged with child sex trafficking crimes.

Similarly, institutions that received millions of dollars from the Sackler family attempted to cut ties after news reports surfaced of the family’s alleged role in the opioid crisis.

Focusing on Diversity

While a lot of progress has been made in regards to hiring more people of color, data collected from the 100 biggest charities shows that white men still make up the majority of chief executives.

Increasing Wages

Earlier this year, more than 2,500 museum workers disclosed their salaries in a crowdsourced spreadsheet that has since gone viral. The results showed that many of the lowest paid workers do not earn enough to keep up with the cost of living. As a result, many organizations are making it a priority to increase wages.

Mass Exodus of Fundraisers

A survey conducted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy in conjunction with the Association of Fundraising Professionals revealed that half of fundraisers are looking to leave their jobs due to low wages, too much pressure to reach unrealistic goals, and frustrating organizational structures.

Fundraising with Artificial Intelligence

Advances in technology have made it possible for charities to more efficiently target donors. There are now artificial intelligence programs that can identify donors’ passions and make appeals to them based on their personal interests. While there is excitement regarding the benefits of this new technology, some experts worry that it will result in fewer jobs for real people.

Why do these nonprofit trends matter? Because in the end, it is the organizations that know how to navigate these changes that will thrive in 2020.


Detroit Institute of Arts Secures Nonprofit Funding

Culture is an important part of cities, and the arts are an important part of culture. That’s why cities like Detroit need to protect museums and galleries even when money is tight.

Recently, a federal judge approved Detroit’s bankruptcy plan, which allows the city to eliminate $7 billion in debt, paying creditors pennies on the dollar. While that plan does harm pensioners, they have faced worse cuts in previous models, and this plan is working in part because the city no longer needs to worry about the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA).

The DIA is an important part of the city’s cultural heritage and is home to numerous works of art. All together, the institute is valued at roughly $4.6 billion. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Matisse, Bruegel the Elder. It’s an impressive collection, but it’s also expensive to maintain. In 2013, the city’s emergency manager said that the DIA would have to chip in $500 million to help with Detroit’s debts, which would no doubt involve selling some of those works.

But the museum went on a fundraising spree and managed to raise $800 million—$300 million of which came from nine nonprofit foundations. $200 million came from the State of Michigan, though Governor Snyder has sworn up and down that he wouldn’t bail Detroit out. That’s a small gesture in the grand scheme of things, but the state and the city have a complicated relationship, in which the state likes to pretend that the city isn’t its responsibility.

But now the DIA is being placed in the hands of a charitable trust, which will allow it to operate without worrying about municipal finances in the future. This is a huge relief to the museum and to the people who love it. Detroit may be making progress on its money problems, but it’s still bankrupt. Perhaps nonprofit solutions can address some of the cities other problems as well.


When Fundraising Goes Wrong: Man Dies in Charity Race

A 52-year-old British man died after he fell out of a pram during a charity fundraising event on New Year’s Day. The event was a race in which contestants push each other around in strollers as they dash to the finish line. It was supposed to be harmless fun. Instead, it ended in tragedy for Francis O’Sullivan, who went by the name Titch.

O’Sullivan and his two companions were dressed up as World War II pilots. The pram was decorated as a Supermarine Spitfire (a British fighter aircraft used during World War II).

One eyewitness said that O’Sullivan’s pram was traveling “a lot quicker” than the pram in front of them. “It all happened so quickly and then I saw blood on the floor,” the witness reported.

According to police, O’Sullivan suffered a severe head injury when the pram crashed. He was air lifted to a local hospital where he later died.

The deceased’s sister, Jeanette O’Sullivan, was heartbroken when the news first broke. She paid homage to her brother on Facebook, with a status update that read:

“My beautiful brother, tragic accident whilst competing in the Sutton Valence pram race. Love you always and forever in our thoughts, a great Brother, Dad and Uncle. May you sleep tight and smile down on us. Sweet dreams. Love you for ever, your family xx.”

It’s one of those things where it wasn’t anybody’s fault; it really was just a freak accident. But perhaps there is a little bit of a silver lining.

For instance, O’Sullivan died doing something that he loved and believed in. That’s more than what a lot of people can say. Because of his death, he’s also shed a lot more light on the pram race itself, and has likely inspired more donations in his name.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the O’Sullivan family. Rest in peace, Titch.

Photo courtesy of Pete Edgeler at Flickr Creative Commons.


‘Nelfie’ Wants You to Take a Nude Selfie for Charity

How far would you go for charity? Would you strip naked for it? That’s precisely what Nelfie, a UK-based project, wants you to do.

Here’s how it works. Participants take a “nelfie” (short for “nude selfie”) and post it on social media. Although that sounds absolutely terrifying, it’s actually not that bad. For one, the photos aren’t actually nude. Participants tactfully place an object over their private parts. It’s still risqué though, as it certainly leaves little to the imagination.

Now here’s where the fundraising part comes in. When a participant first posts the photo, it is highly pixelated—too pixelated to even see anything. Participants incentivize their friends to donate to charity by de-pixelating the image as more and more contributions are made. The more people donate, the clearer the image gets.

It’s fun, it’s spunky, and it’s definitely novel. Tom Wren, who founded Nelfie in 2015, is quite literally leading by example when it comes to his unusual fundraising technique. He posted his own “nelfie” in support of Amnesty International, a non-governmental organization centered on human rights.

In an interview with, Wren said that he originally started the company as a way for normal, everyday people to raise massive amounts of money for charity.

“I’m frustrated that typically the amount of money we can raise is limited to how many friends and co-workers we have, and they don’t have much fun donating to a static page. It’s sad that it seems only celebrities can raise huge awareness for what matters to them with a single tweet.”

And that’s how Nelfie was born. Wren wanted to put the FUN back in fun-draising. And he’s done a phenomenal job so far; Nelfie is just now starting to take off, with countries from all over the world participating in the challenge.

“For those not quite ready to nelfie, we’d really appreciate the support of this community in helping grow our impact and supporting our live campaigns, whether it be supporting with a donation, a share on social media or even just spreading the word,” Wren stated.

Here at Philanthropic People, we’re not quite courageous enough to take a nelfie. However, we’re proud to say we did our part in spreading the word.


Appealing to Psychological Needs Can Garner More Donations

It may seem obvious, but the way you word fundraising appeals can have a pretty big impact on the success of those appeals. According to new research, minor changes to wording can increase donations by up to 300%. But before you go and rewrite all of your appeals, there are some things you need to know.

First of all, there is no secret weapon here. The study was based on 30,000 fundraising letters sent out to people across India. 20,000 of those letters were from a cold list and the rest were from a warm list. Researchers found that seeking out donors with the same religious beliefs increased donations by 55%, or by 33% if the target is of low-income status. By slightly modifying the fundraising appeals, researchers found a variety of ways to appeal to peoples’ sympathy.

At the core of all of this seems to be the idea that putting a face on the appeal helps. Making donors aware that they will be helping real, specific people seems to draw in more donations. But donors also want to feel like they’re a part of something greater than themselves. In order to create this sense of belonging, donors have to feel aligned with the organization’s missions and goals. Organizations have to cater to these psychological needs if they want to receive more donations.

That may feel manipulative, but the fact of the matter is that pure logic does not appeal to people as much as we might like to think. Marketing, and that’s what this is, most often appeals to human emotions, because let’s face it, we’re emotional creatures first and foremost. It’s all about convincing people to back a certain idea or cause, and making them feel good about doing so. This research has shown that by actually applying psychology to fundraising efforts, these efforts can really pay off, which is especially helpful in a world with an ever increasing number of charities.


NYC Mayor’s Fundraising Arm Stops Working with Investigators

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, has been investigated for the conduct of the fundraising arm of his political campaign. The Campaign for One New York is currently being investigated by several entities, including the Joint Commission on Public Integrity (JCOPE). For the last year or so, the state ethics panel has been working closely with the Campaign for One New York but as of April 6th, that organization has stated that they will no longer be replying to JCOPE subpoenas.

Although neither the Campaign nor de Blasio have made things entirely clear, there seems to be some concern on their part that the independent, non-profit JCOPE is actually a political tool of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a political rival of de Blasio. They have implied that JCOPE has overstepped its legal purview, and has the wrong motivations in conducting the investigation.

The Joint Commission on Public Integrity was formed back in 2011 as an independent monitoring organization. Coumo has been quick to point this out, though he himself is responsible for appointing the groups chair and seven of it’s fourteen members. That does paint a picture of a group which is heavily influenced by the governor, whether or not he directly “pulls the strings.”

In response to the letter, JCOPE has asked the courts to force Campaign for One New York to comply and continue submitting to the investigation. That decision should be interesting, as it could establish precedent for de Blasio’s group to shrug off other current and future investigations, and may push other non-profit groups to do the same.

Regardless of whether JCOPE is a political tool of Coumo, the Campaign’s reaction this late is the game does seem like a political move, since they’ve been cooperating for so long already, it seems unlikely they didn’t know about Coumo’s alleged influence.

Organizations Resources

Philanthropic Nonprofits are Polished at Marissa Sackler’s Beespace

“We believe in the power of a space. From layout to décor, the Beespace office seeks to provide Incubees with not only a highly functional place to launch their efforts – but one that inspires, motivates and helps them learn and grow.”
IMG: via Beespace

In the last few years, the world of philanthropy has seen a major influx of “incubators” – businesses that operate for the sole purpose of helping other nonprofits or entrepreneurs find success in their fields. These incubators have been in business with for-profit companies for a while, but only more recently have there been incubators designed to support nonprofits specifically. What’s more charitable than a company that helps nonprofit, for-charity organizations thrive?

A newly formed nonprofit incubator company is called Beespace, and it’s truly carving out a name for itself in the realm of philanthropy. Created by Marissa Sackler in 2013, Beespace’s purpose is to provide social entrepreneurs with the mentorship, fundraising support, design assistance, and other resources that they might need to help realize their vision. “Utilizing the tech incubator model, we provide a suite of support services, to attract and support the best and the brightest to launch effective nonprofits, significantly reduce the cost of entry, close the knowledge and learning gap and de-risk investment for early-stage donors,” explains Beespace’s overview of its agency’s offerings.

With Marissa Sackler at the helm, Beespace has already established itself as a significant resource for many entrepreneurs desiring to make a difference in the world. Sackler has a lot of experience working within the realm of philanthropy. She’s a founding sponsor and activist for charity: water, and Beespace is currently working with three incredibly promising nonprofits including the Malala Fund, the Adventure Project, and Practice Makes Perfect.

Of what sets Beespace apart Sackler says, “There are nonprofit incubators out there doing good work, but we think we’ve developed a more comprehensive model that’s going to help organizations grow and achieve their potential.” Part of this model includes a 3-prong system for cultivating strong nonprofits, not accepting payment from its “incubees,” and requiring that the incubees secure at least four months of operational income before they venture out on their own. Sackler is also committed to furthering the efforts of nonprofits that she truly believes in. She explains, “They can be working on any issue, but we want to identify groups with a strong organizational vision and an innovative strategy that have the ability to create real change and that are attempting to solve issues at scale.”

Still only in its first year, Beespace is emerging as one of the premier nonprofit incubators in the business. Learn more at