Fast Forward: How the Trump Effect is Accelerating Key Trends in Philanthropy

Monday, May 7, 2018
Visualization of moving forward. From Inside Philanthropy: Fast Forward: How the Trump Effect is Accelerating Key Trends in Philanthropy. Credit: MLAP STUDIO/SHUTTERSTOCK.

In a recent piece on the declining fortunes of the Council on Foundations, we looked at how the philanthropy sector has changed as it's grown. Beyond the arrival of many big new donors, especially from tech and finance, and an explosion of regional philanthropy, today's larger and more complex philanthrosphere includes a slew of local grantmaking associations, issue-based affinity groups, funding intermediaries, and consulting outfits. That makes for a more varied and clamorous sector, and, arguably, a much stronger one. 

Those trends were all in full swing in late 2016, when the election of Donald Trump stirred things up even further. Trump’s ascendence set a lot of folks in philanthropy reeling, prompting some to act rapidly while others played a waiting game to see how the national situation shook out. Quite a bit has now been written about how funders have responded—and are responding—to the developments of the Trump era. 

One interesting part of this story is how funder affinity groups have emerged as more important players. Inside Philanthropy has run a half-dozen or so stories looking what different affinity groups are grappling with the Trump presidency. Some, like Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, have put themselves right at the forefront of the resistance by working to mobilize urgent funder actions.  

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Affinity groups and collaboratives act as a “ready-made infrastructure” for funders who want to understand how to fund things like rapid responses and movement building. "PSOs were often the first call for grantmakers," write Fine and Lawrence. And those calls have kept coming, turning these groups into more critical nodes for sharing information and coordinating strategies. As Daranee Petsod of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees notes, “Funders truly want to understand how public policy changes affect families and communities."

Petsod’s reference to public policy is no accident. Despite philanthropy’s wariness about appearing too political, funders have found it necessary under Trump to be more outspoken about their values. And while the Council of Foundations and the Independent Sector have tended to keep their heads down, affinity groups have taken a bolder stance. Perhaps most dramatically, Petsod's organization rallied scores of foundations and philanthropic organizations to sign onto a strong statement last year condemning the Trump administration's travel ban, as we reported at the time.

Other responsive moves by affinity groups include ...