GVSU's Johnson Center highlights 2018 philanthropy trends in annual report

By Devin Dely | 1/15/18 4:42am

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GVL / Courtesy - Johnson Center for Philanthropy

As the number of nonprofit organizations in the U.S. continues to grow, experts are working to keep up with the changing landscape. According to the most recently available data at the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are currently more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the U.S., and that number is projected to grow in 2018. 

Officials at Grand Valley State University are getting ahead of the game, however. Recently, the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy published its report for philanthropy trends in 2018. According to Kyle Caldwell, executive director of the Johnson Center, this annual report is meant to identify current trends in philanthropy and benefit the community, as well as nonprofit organizations.

“This is our second annual report,” Caldwell said. “We launched it last year when we were having a discussion about what we were observing in philanthropy, and some of us thought, ‘You know, we should really share this.’ So we created the report.” 

The 11 trends listed in the report encompass a wide array of topics, including globalized giving, the next generation of donors, and the changing relationship between government and nonprofits. 

“These are actions in the field, behavior changes, issues we are seeing that change the way we think about philanthropy,” Caldwell said. 

Caldwell elaborated on the importance of certain trends, highlighting equity as an example of a particularly significant topic. 

“I’d say we do see some cluster themes that come out of this (the report),” he said. “One that is really standing tall is a trend towards equity and how philanthropy affects equity. When we think about evaluation and think about collecting data, how do we think about it in ways to make sure we’re being inclusive and making sure we’re encompassing a broad population, and not just a narrow population?” 

Item number five in the report, written by Johnson Center Leadership Council member Juan Olivarez, addresses this need for equity to be considered an important issue in philanthropy.

“Many foundations are striving to incorporate an equity focus into their work,” Olivarez writes in the report. “Monumental demographic shifts taking place in the U.S. necessitate the development of new tools and strategies that will allow the field to effectively address equity issues and impact change.”

The Johnson Center has been a part of GVSU’s College of Community and Public Service since 1992. The center frequently holds workshops and participates in a great deal of research surrounding the nonprofit sector, philanthropy, leadership and community.

“We’re an academic center at GVSU that works with individuals to help them understand and strengthen philanthropy,” Caldwell said. “We make philanthropy more effective and sustainable by working with nonprofits, foundations and donors, all in a quest to help them be more effective in engaging a community change. We have a global perspective in how we engage philanthropy, and that allows us to bring in other organizations from around the world.”

As the Johnson Center works toward protecting the future of nonprofits and philanthropy, Caldwell wants to make it clear that they are not only there for the organizations—they are there for students as well. 

“The Johnson Center does engage nonprofits who are working on a myriad of different causes, and we give students an opportunity to be exposed to those as well,” he said. “I think opportunities like the recent ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) conference are a great way for students to get experience and be exposed to the world around them. 

"We really just hope to help students understand what the world is and how they can engage with it.” 

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