In biology, ecosystems are made up of organisms — living things that are themselves made up of individual cells and multi-part systems working together as a single whole. Each organism is unique, responding differently to fluctuations in its environment.
The same is true in philanthropy. Each nonprofit, foundation, donor, community, or network is affected differently by our national and global zeitgeist. But as each player adapts to changes in that context, the sum of those many reactions can become a force of its own.
That’s why the word “organism” — and its forms, “organization” and “organize” — seems to be at the heart of this, our seventh annual 11 Trends in Philanthropy publication. The issues we cover this year zoom in on how the forces rippling across our ecosystem are playing out at the level of individual organizations. Public accountability, investment decisions, distributed leadership — these are questions that each person and each partnership must answer for itself.
Philanthropy is also getting organized and reorganized. Funding collaboratives, unionized labor, new governance structures — individual actors are making moves, coming together to cause change on a broader scale. As ideas and methods gain attention, they introduce yet more dynamism to the environment.
Today, we see this push-pull at work. In 2023 and beyond, we’ll see how it plays out.