In some ways, it is. What is replacing the benevolence Americans are so famous for is a new approach to philanthropy. Modern America is still altruistic and we all live a better life for it. From animal causes to culture and medical research to veterans, average Americans donate almost $1 billion dollars daily. And, the good news is this astounding number is increasing.
However, the way Americans support their favorite nonprofits is changing. No longer are donors giving money as an extension of their beliefs or motivated by traditional values of charity that moved earlier generations. Instead, modern donors are demanding measurements, results, change and even specific solutions. Rather than directing resources towards nonprofits because it is the “right thing to do” today’s donors are asking for real outcomes. Solve a problem and move on to the next one seems to be an emerging pattern.
This is a dramatic change from traditional charitable benevolence to a new concept of philanthrocapitalism. Using our larger networks of influence, technology, information and capitalistic tendencies, American donors are demanding change. We live in a time where the notion of a social problem is considered solvable. It is no longer acceptable to shrug and reason, “Well, that’s just the way it is. We will always have poverty.”
Modern donors, large and small are saying, “What’s the solution? How come we have poverty in the first place?” Once we view a social crisis this way our methods are often different. We see more nonprofits changing their attitudes about those they serve. Listening to clients determining what the roots of a problem instead of foisting an outsider’s view is fundamental. This is a new tactic challenging the nonprofit community.
Modern donors are demanding measurements, results, change and even specific solutions.
This changing approach towards funding philanthropy has turned the nonprofit community upside down. Now, instead of spending valuable time and resources to fundraise, nonprofits are also being forced to analyze, measure and report back their actions. It’s not enough to feed the working poor, organizations who do this are being asked to gather metrics of who they served, the nutritional value of the food served and the demographics of those served.
Donors are wanting to understand how their engagement can make the lives of those served better, stronger and navigate them towards a place where they don’t need the service. It’s a less emotional approach, rooted in a solution-based principle of philanthropy.
Today’s donors are more engaged to the point they are not manipulated or moved to act from the telling of a sad story. Modern philanthropic engagement is demanding an intelligent and even academic approach, supported by metrics which demonstrate a path to solution. Getting to the root of a problem with a clear path to solving it is the new inspiration of fundraising. It is a hopeful approach as well.
Does compassion still rule? Yes of course! Tempered with measurement, science, reflection and strategy, solutions to our most challenging nonprofit concerns can be found. Modern philanthrocapitalism is thriving and we are all impacted by it whether we recognize it or not
JULIA C. PATRICK is the Founder and CEO of the American Nonprofit Academy. With more than 80 online courses, Live Webinars, seminars and digital content, the American Nonprofit Academy teaches nonprofits how to achieve their mission, vision and values.