Earlier this year, I took a look back at my decade of predictions, 1999-2009. You can find that online here. I’ve also published my annual forecast for what will matter in philanthropy and social investing in 2011—you can find that online here (use the special SSIR discount code)

I’m an historian by training so I can’t help but think in decennial terms—the 70s, 80s, 90s, etc. We’re wrapping up the first decade of the 21st Century. Everywhere you look you can find Top 10 lists. I’ve got my own going—the annual roundup of Philanthropy Buzzwords can be found here. We’re up to #8 (crowdfunding). We’ll get the last two posted before December 31st.

With this post I’m going to take a slightly different tack on the end-of-year ritual top 10 lists. Rather than focus in (anymore than the buzzwords list already does) on the top 10 of the year gone by, let’s think about the factors that will shape philanthropy for the decade ahead.

Here are my premonitions on what will become familiar in philanthropy in the decade to come:

  1. The rules will change—federal tax law, nonprofits and politics, municipal and state tax exemptions, IP regulations, B corporations and the entry of the SEC into social investing—by 2020 philanthropy in the US and trans-nationally is going to be operating under fundamentally different rules.
  2. More spend down foundations—as the wealthy get more active in philanthropy at younger ages I expect more of them will set time-limits on their foundations. After all, if you start giving away your billions in your twenties you’ve got as many years left ahead of you as most of the nation’s perpetual foundations have behind them.
  3. Gaming and game pedagogy will be built in to problem solving—And foundations, philanthropists, and change making organizations will be using these structures and incentives to address everything from obesity to art creation, from public policy debates to conserving energy.
  4. Disaster relief giving will be more structured and planned—Weather forecasters and scientists are predicting a dramatic uptick in natural disasters, especially those that are weather related. Efforts to organize and plan for these disasters will take hold. New mechanisms for individual disaster response giving will exist.
  5. Impact investing will surpass philanthropy—Total giving in the USA increased by about 50% or $100 billion in the last decade. The 2000 number (as reported by Giving USA) was $203 billion and the 2009 working number is $303 billion. If that rate of growth continues over the next decade we’ll hit $450 billion in total giving by 2020. Meanwhile (admittedly self-interested) predictions of impact investing peg the a potential investment opportunity between $400 billion and $1 trillion.
  6. Institutional philanthropy will be more collaborative—the generation that will be key professional staff and the donors behind major new foundations in the next decade are used to “spending other people’s money,” “leverage,” and “real time collaboration.” I think we’ll see foundations working more deliberately through networks, in joint funding, and through syndicates.
  7. Data analysis and visualization will be key skills for philanthropists—Communications and evaluation were the two “add on” departments of foundations in the last decade. Data analysis and visualization will be the key going forward.
  8. Foundations and nonprofits will still be here—There will be all kinds of other ways for donors to use their dollars for good, but they will still be starting new private foundations. Most of the foundations that exist today will exist in 2020, as will an amazing percentage of today’s nonprofits.
  9. Mobile phones will replace credit card donations. We’ll look back and laugh at the idea of entering credit card numbers into web sites. The mobile revolution is more than text giving. Our phones (handheld computers) will be our point of access to the web and social networks, communications systems, volunteering tools, and wallets.
  10. Scale will have a networked meaning. Scale is one of the buzzwords of the last decade in philanthropy. By 2020 ,we’ll have given up our misconception that “scale = big” and instead be focused on “scale = networked.” We will have recognized that problems get solved through “small pieces loosely coupled.”

In the generous spirit of the season, here are some extra thoughts.

  1. “Impact economy” will replace “social sector” as the term of art.
  2. Foundation leadership and boards will not reflect the racial, ethnic, or gender makeup of the nation.
  3. China and India will be atop global philanthropy leader boards.
  4. There will be a multinational oversight organization for global philanthropy or social investing.

What do you think will happen by 2020? What will philanthropy look like? What can we barely imagine today that will be commonplace by then? Let us know in the comments and have a great year ahead.

Tracker Pixel for Entry