Philanthropy Blog: Reasons for Hope in 2017

December 22, 2016

The holiday season and the approaching new year is typically a time of reflection, filled with expressions of gratitude, consideration of the year past and goal setting for the new year ahead. This year’s reflections and predictions have seemed more intense than in past years, given the highly charged Presidential election and its aftermath. Repeated conversations with colleagues and clients have affirmed that philanthropy will continue to be a place for positive civil discourse, for supporting society’s greatest needs, and for making sure the vital “third sector” continues to play a role in our nation’s democracy. How this is implemented will look different from donor to donor. Some philanthropies will choose to continue advocating for social change in the issues they care about; others may “double down” in their giving to causes that may face cuts in public funding; still others may want to find a new approach or stick to very local level giving. There is no one way, no magic answer. But at this time of year it would be a wasted opportunity not to highlight a few trends and bright spots for 2017.

  • Young people are being engaged in philanthropy at a rapidly growing pace. They understand the world in which they live and the challenges that exist, and they want to do something about it. And fast. They think they can do a better job at it than their parents’ generation. How is that different from any other generation, you might ask? They are networked and connected and are prepared to use their time, treasure and talent right away. They also are engaging at a much younger age than many of their predecessors. And they have an impressive breadth of technology to help them, but have not forgotten how important person to person contact is. Browse through or and you’ll walk away inspired and cheering for the so-called Generation Z.
  • Many families use the holidays as a time to talk about their family history and values. A recent New York Times article highlighted the myriad ways to engage teens and youth in giving, not just in making decisions on where to give but also in highlighting the ways families have been recipients of others’ generosity. As you sit around your holiday table, take a moment to ask your elders and your juniors what they care about, and brainstorm where you have common ground and what you might do about it. The answers may surprise you.
  • Nonprofit leaders, particularly those working at the local level, know the needs in their communities or issue areas, and remain committed to meeting the needs of their constituents. While possible constraints in federal funding will likely challenge their work in health care, education, the environment and other social welfare fields, continue to listen to them as they articulate their needs in the coming year.
  • The current state of national politics has resulted in many donors looking at their priorities anew, determining where they want to have an impact and what they want their legacy to be. Governmental regimes and tax codes may change, but you can take control of your legacy by making thoughtful, strategic and deliberate plans for your charitable giving and legacy.

Though we may be in winter when the days are short and cold here in the northeast, the earth begins its tilt back toward the sun, and with it brings the promise of a new year.

About the Author

Gioia Perugini is Associate Director, Family Office and Philanthropy Services at Hemenway & Barnes. She works with individuals, families, advisors, charitable trusts and foundations to provide a range of philanthropic and client services.

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