pepper rutland_philanthropy2015 marked a record year for charitable donations. Like the year prior, Americans reached deeper and found more reasons to give to a wide range of causes. What’s more, nearly three-quarters of donations were from individual donors: a sign of an increasing belief in personal responsibility to make the changes we seek.

Early predictions of last year’s donations show a similar trend, with efforts like Giving Tuesday spawning a 44% increase in contributions made to nonprofit organizations; all things considered 2017 will set records as well.

Here are some of the biggest trends in giving to look for this year:


  1. Larger Donations to Universities
    Contributions to our nation’s institutions of higher learning is something I’m passionate about. In 2017, giving to universities is expected to grow. Centers for education are among the most equipped to put large sums of money to good use, securing a brighter future through research, technology, and grants and scholarships for the student body, in an era in which affordable education is among the top concerns for young Americans. In this first month alone, the The Helen Diller Foundation has made $500 million gift to the University of California, San Francisco–one of the largest campus donations in history.

  2. Attention To Middle America
    Large donors have a habit of focusing on the coastal regions of the country, or largely urban areas like New York City and Los Angeles, to help communities there. Experts predict an increased focus on middle america as well. Organizations like Farm Progress and Rural America Initiatives are just a few that have dedicated resources to causes for some our country’s most vulnerable, and more are likely to follow.

  3. Impact Investing Still Key
    Impact investing is an interesting concept that combines doing good with good business. For example, foundations seek opportunities that will lead to social change, like efforts to build afford housing in America’s urban centers, or provide drinking water in rural villages of India, and the companies who are leading such efforts approach these organizations for funding. An investment is made that leads social change, and the investors, such as the Gates Foundation, receive a return on that investment to do more good work.
  4. More Female Donors
    As opportunities and incomes around the world become more equitable, the number of women in the philanthropic sector continues to grow. Mega donors like Barbara Picower and Cari Tuna are widely recognized for their approach to making a difference and mobilizing others to give as well. Such a shift shows no sign of slowing down in the new year.