6 Trends to Watch in Philanthropy and Fundraising in 2023

By Alexis Cooke, Greg Whitney, Jaron Bernstein, Lieve Hendren, Mariah Hickey and Shay Upadhyay

This article is a 5 minute read.

A person has climbed a series of giant gears representing trends in the industry.

The world of philanthropy is changing rapidly and it can be a challenge to stay informed and strategize around frequent shifts. We asked our consultants to tell us what they believe are the most pressing trends in philanthropy to keep on the radar and to share their advice on how to stay ahead of the curve.

1. Rising Cybersecurity Threats Targeting Nonprofits

Our take: In their desire to communicate and be transparent to the public, nonprofits expose significant information . From listing entire staff rosters and email addresses to information contained in the 1990’s – cybercriminals are finding their way into nonprofit systems. This can lead to stolen information or ransomware taking over a nonprofit’stechnology – costing thousands of dollars and hours of labor to recover, not to mention stalling the nonprofit’s operations for weeks, if not longer, while the issue is being resolved. 

Our advice : Nonprofits should do more to monitor these threats and train staff about what these threats can look like. Regular testing and retraining of employees will keep this top of mind and demonstrate the importance of cyber security. 

Greg Whitney, Vice President

2. Volunteer Leaders Looking for Personalized, Tailored Engagement Opportunities

Our take: Nonprofit volunteers who are recruited for committees, taskforces, advisory councils and other initiative-focused engagements want to spend their time and energy advancing organizational missions while maintaining alignment with their personal goals and desired impact. More and more, Alford Group clients are looking for innovative ways to engage and sustain volunteer leadership, specifically around campaigns or other focused initiatives. Organizations struggle to recruit volunteers for long-term engagements with one-size fits all job roles and responsibilities. As a result, there is a rising eagerness to create committee infrastructures that are less onerous, more concise and that leverage leaders’ interests and affinities.

Our advice: Alford Group specifically recommends engaging volunteers individually in conversations to identify ways they can best contribute their energy and talents based on four key profile types – Connector, Storyteller, Visionary and Closer. Not to mention, bringing the group of ambassadors together 2-3 times a year , rather than 6 or more, allows sufficient time to create community and build consensus.

Alexis Cooke, Chief Operating Officer

3. Growing Demand for Addressing Organizational Sustainability through Campaigns

Our take:  Developing a bold, urgent and distinctive case for support is and has always been a crucial step for launching any fundraising campaign. We are now emerging from a disruptive few years during which nonprofits and other organizations (and indeed donors themselves!) have been forced to pivot and reevaluate priorities. Prospective campaign donors are just as interested in understanding how a campaign effort will help make your organization more resilient, more sustainable and more able to continue to serve your constituents as they are in inspiring, visionary campaign language and imagery.

Our advice: It is becoming even more imperative to ensure that your organization has a strong strategic plan that links to the project you are fundraising for, and that your campaign case for support is thorough and robust before launching. Nonprofits who don’t have a current, completed strategic plan typically delay campaigns in the scramble to ensure that strategy work is done before they launch the campaign effort in their communities.

Jaron Bernstein, Consultant

4. Expanding Uses of Gifting as an Estate Planning Strategy

Our take: According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2021, estates faced a 40% tax rate on their value above $11.7 million. The same threshold and tax rate apply to gift taxes. For people who intend to donate a large sum of money to a nonprofit through their estate, scheduling out estate giving can be a wise strategy to intentionally reduce the size of an estate and limit the estate tax that will be owed upon their death.

Our advice: Nonprofits should continue encouraging their donors to consider gift estate planning. By scheduling out donor gifts while they are still alive, people can not only see the value of their gift materialize, but their money will go farther in the long run.

Shay Upadhyay, Client Service Associate

5. High staff turnover and lengthy position vacancies

Our take: The average tenure of a fundraising professional is 18 to 24 months, and according to Penelope Burke, it takes about two years for a donor to trust a fundraising professional enough to make their most generous gift. A 2021 Chronicle of Philanthropy study reported that 51% of fundraisers plan to leave their organizations, and 30% of fundraisers plan to leave the development field altogether. According to an October 2021 study conducted by the National Council of Nonprofits, 34% of organizations experienced vacancy rates between 10 and 19%, while 42% of organizations experienced vacancy rates of 20% and higher.

Our advice: More than ever, it’s critical to create a succession plan for key executives and staff members. In addition, identify your rising stars and leaders early on and provide them with professional development opportunities to grow their skills. This will support increased staff retention while building your pipeline of knowledgeable and passionate leaders for your organization.

Mariah Hickey, CFRE, Senior Consultant and Director of Client Service

6. New Innovations in Board Engagement

Our take: Fully engaging board talent and volunteerism for effective governance has always been crucial to a nonprofit’s success. In the aftermath of COVID-19, however, many boards experienced burnout and lackluster engagement. 2023 is an opportune time to re-evaluate the functioning of your board for deeper engagement.

Our advice: Considerdevoting a special session or retreat to generate honest conversation. Use this to identify if there is sufficient diversity of viewpoints, backgrounds and lived experiences on your board.

  • Are board members tired of digging through dense financial reports? Streamline reporting through simple data visualizations to assist board members in their fiduciary responsibilities. Clearly communicate the “why” behind your reports.
  • Are board members removed from programs and services? You might invite program staff to share on-the-ground impact stories.
  • Are board members hesitant to engage in opening networks and fundraising? Offer small, bite-sized training sessions and role-playing exercises so board members can advocate on your behalf with more ease and confidence.

All in all, it’s important to remember that regular periods of honest assessment are crucial to ensure your board remains active and engaged as critical leaders of your community.

Lieve Hendren, CFRE, Senior Consultant and Director of Strategic Initiatives

3 Ways to Activate Allyship in Black History Month

By Brenda Asare, President & CEO

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans. It’s a time to acknowledge and disrupt bias while fostering a more equitable and inclusive society. It is also an opportunity for individuals and organizations to reflect on their role in supporting the Black community and to become more active allies. This includes engaging donors of color and making meaningful investments in Black-led organizations and initiatives.

Why does philanthropy matter during Black History Month?

Philanthropy plays a pivotal role in supporting the Black community and advancing racial justice. It provides resources to the nonprofit community to fuel initiatives that are working to address systemic barriers facing the Black community such as poverty, health care and education. Philanthropy also helps to amplify Black voices and perspectives and to build a broader appreciation of the Black experience.

1. Engage donors of color.

To effectively engage donors of color, nonprofits must first understand the unique experiences and perspectives of these donors. This includes understanding their motivations for giving, their philanthropic values and the challenges they face as donors.

A major step in building trust with Black donors is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment and cultivate a culture where donors feel valued, heard and respected.  It also means being intentional and proactive with communication: reaching out to potential donors and providing opportunities for them to bond with your organization and other like-minded givers.

Another critical step is to provide numerous and meaningful avenues for donors to get involved and to make a difference.  It’s important to engage these donors in meaningful dialogue and invite them to share feedback on the organization’s work.  Engagement also means connecting donors directly to the organization: serving on committees and inviting them to observe team members in action.

Ultimately, meaningful and sustainable engagement of Black donors is built around trust. This trust is only achieved when an organization builds its cultural competency: showing up in places that matter, reading and listening to materials that provide insights into Black culture and activating relationships with high touch and consistent engagement.  As highlighted in recent research conducted by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy,  Blacks are not new to being generous and employ a broad range of funding vehicles to give back to their community as well as to others.

2. Invest in Black-led organizations and initiatives.

Another important aspect of philanthropy during Black History month is making meaningful investments in Black-led organizations. Research shows that Black-led organizations are 24% smaller in their revenue base compared to their white-led counterparts. Not to mention the same organizations have net-assets that are 74% smaller than those of their white-led counterparts. These organizations play a life-changing role in addressing issues facing the Black community and bring unique perspectives and solutions to the challenges that they face.

In their report on the Power of Black Social Innovation, Echoing Green highlights the possibilities of our collective future when we affirm and support the work of Black social innovators and leaders. This is especially true in the nonprofit world. When acting in allyship, consider prioritizing long-term funding and support to these Black-led organizations over reactionary giving.

Not sure where to begin? Here is a list of Black-led initiatives to consider investing in:

Black-led nonprofit organizations in Chicago

Association of Black Foundation Executives

Chicago African Americans in Philanthropy

Foundation for Black Philanthropy

3. Be an active ally.

Undergirding the intersection of Black History Month and Philanthropy is the role that non-Black people play in the continued oppression of Black communities both individually and systemically. One way this oppression can begin to dissolve is by defining and participating in active allyship.

Allyship is the intentional effort to work in solidarity and partnership with marginalized groups, challenging assumptions, attitudes and beliefs and bringing implicit bias to the forefront. Active allyship takes this to the next level. It acknowledges that we are each an enabler of inclusivity in every moment of our day. It recognizes that curiosity, self-education, and regular application are required to uphold our responsibilities to one another.

Alford Group offers an extensive DEI toolkit that provides techniques and resources for how to implement active allyship. Through all these methods and more, active allyship is a commitment to transforming the dominant narrative of whom we call a philanthropist and how we define philanthropy as a whole.

Learning is continuous.

Active allyship is a continuous process of learning and sharing that can be uncomfortable for some. However, for the world of philanthropy to truly overcome these biases, it is critical that we exercise these conversations and practices consistently, collectively, and expansively across identity groups.

Giving Back: The Soul of Philanthropy Reframed and Exhibited is one rich opportunity to learn more and support the reframing narratives around philanthropy. Since its beginning in 2015, the exhibition has captivated visitors across the country with its comprehensive, multimedia presentation of stories of centuries-old generosity among Americans of African descent. It currently runs from February through April 2023 at the Chicago Cultural Center. Visit their website for more information on panel discussions, and public forums accompanying the exhibition.

Below are additional resources to learn more about the history of Black philanthropy, and to plug into more dialogues about how to transform the narrative moving forward:

A Generosity of Spirit: The Legacy of Black Philanthropy

Engaging Donors of Color

Everyday Donors of Color: Diverse Philanthropy During Times of Change

Madam C.J. Walker: 3 Myths About Black Philanthropy Debunked

Let’s keep our commitment to advancing equity and inclusivity beyond Black History Month. Our collective lives depend on it.

The Case for Equity-Centered Philanthropy: How to Collect and Utilize Demographic Data

By Mary Hackett, Vice President

Fundraisers often don’t believe that they can have a significant impact on their organization’s journey toward diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Here’s the truth: development professionals play a critical role! You have a unique superpower that can play the role of disruptor: your donor data.

As connectors, spokespeople, and communicators, both internally and externally, you have a variety of impactful ways to further your organization’s DEI efforts through data.

What is Equity-Centered Philanthropy?

Before we dig in, let’s calibrate exactly what equity-centered philanthropy means. Alford Group defines it as intentional action toward changing structures, roles, processes, representation, and practices that perpetuate inequities in the nonprofit community and world at large

Every organization, including Alford Group, is on its own journey when it comes to the work of DEI. Many of our clients fall somewhere on the spectrum below.

How Data Informs Donor Engagement and Fuels Disruptive Change

One of the greatest tools that you have in your fundraising toolkit is the years of giving histories and donors that are in your fundraising database. It is important to understand how to use data to inform knowledge, strategy and intentional action in creating a set of practices for your organization. 

Having this data allows you to step into the critical role of a disruptor by:

  • Connecting and centering community voices
  • Deepening organizational cultural competencies to better understand donors’ motivations and practices
  • Ensuring an expanded, more inclusive definition of who is a philanthropist
  • Increasing and sustaining collaboration and trust with donors by offering different giving levels and ways to support and invest

Often, we are worried about putting “sensitive” information into our databases, but we have to collect data to measure where we are and where we want to go. I often hear, “we won’t track gender” or “we won’t track age” and “we won’t track religious affiliation.” The APRA Ethics and Compliance Committee on DEI Data Collection said it best:

“DEI data can be considered sensitive, due to histories of discrimination, persecution, and lack of access. DEI data represents how we determine who is seen and who is erased, who counts and who does not.”

How we collect DEI data reflects our organization’s values. Methods can either perpetuate inequity, bias, and harmful stereotypes. It stands to reason that this information enables greater inclusivity in our constituencies.

How to Collect Demographic Data

The best way to collect demographic data is to allow your constituents to self-identify. There are many ways to collect this type of data: surveys, event registrations, solicitation reply devices, online giving forms, and direct contact.

After I made a recent online donation, I was taken to this online survey. I took a screen-shot because it was such a great way to allow people to opt in and share how they’d like to be addressed.

You’ll see that every question allows people to type in a specific answer or prefer not to answer. After I filled out this survey, the organization captured that data and began addressing me as I had indicated that I’d like to be addressed.

When collecting demographic data:

  • Only collect data that has business use. Don’t collect more data than exactly what you plan to use.
  • Always include a free-form text box if none of the options you provide fit.
  • Provide self-disclosure on surveys, event registrations, profile updates through the portal and in discussions with gift officers.
  • Be transparent about why you’re collecting and tracking this data.

How to Use Demographic Data

As your collection of demographic data grows, you’ll begin to understand the composition of your donor pool. We urge clients to look at the following demographics to better understand their current pool. Once you have visibility, you can begin to implement strategies and tactics to further diversify. Consider the following:

  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability and impairment
  • Gender Identity
  • Level of Education

We specifically chose these five demographics because they encourage us to be inclusive with our communications. As you examine the makeup of your constituents, here are some best practices:

  1. Use strength-based language when speaking about clients served
  2. Record, store and use data in ways that are inclusive and reflect their choices
  3. Move from an “opt out” model of data usage to a “permission based” model
  4. Identify and test message resonance with donor segments
  5. Engage donors at all levels
  6. Personalize your communications and use real individuals by incorporating their voice

Demographic Data is key to an equitable future.

While it may not seem obvious at first, as development professionals, we play an important role in our organizations’ DEI journey. Data is empowering.

Our use and understanding of data can be a major influence on our organization’s ability to forge radically authentic relationships internally and externally with board, staff, partners and donors alike.

Data can help our teams build the confidence to establish the brace spaces required to recognize scarcity mindsets, white-centered norms and deficit-based communications.

By focusing our strategies and systems on our donors’ self-identification and visibility, we can make necessary changes to be a more inclusive, diverse, and equitable nonprofit community.

Anh Vo Joins Alford Group as Chief Culture Officer

headshot of Anh Vo in purpe topChicago, IL January 4, 2023 – Alford Group welcomes Anh Vo as Chief Culture Officer effective January 2023.

“Alford Group is very pleased to bring Anh on board,” said Brenda B. Asare, President and CEO of Alford Group. “The position of Chief Culture Officer is more important than ever as Alford Group further advances our commitment to creating a world where possibilities are endless and reflect the best of who we are as humans.”

As our Chief Culture Officer, Anh promotes an inclusive environment and creates a sense of belonging among colleagues and clients. In this role, Anh will lead Alford Group in its vision of a workplace that centers people, culture and equity.

Anh plays a critical part in designing programs that use an equity-centered lens, both internally and with clients. Internally, Anh will lead Alford Group in ensuring that team members are supported and comfortable bringing all of themselves to work daily. Externally, Anh’s objective is to design and build services for clients that focus on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

“I am thrilled to join this team,” said Anh Vo. “There is so much work to be done across the country to advance equity-centered practices and I can’t wait to leverage my past experience and expertise to assist Alford Group’s mission to accelerate impact and advance social change.”

Prior to joining Alford Group, Anh worked as a global turnaround manager in Europe and North America, building high-performing teams dedicated to working towards a common goal. She has extensive experience in the social impact sector, working with nonprofits and foundations to build environments that enable people to work meaningfully and effectively. Anh has collaborated with organizations, such as Casey Family Programs, Craft3, Uplift NW, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle (ULMS) and HopeLink.

Throughout her career, Anh has worked to advance dialogue on race and practices of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. She recognizes the deep need for safety and belonging from every level of the organization, where agreed sets of behaviors enable team members to collaborate, connect and ultimately thrive in cross-cultural and multicultural environments.

In addition to her explorations in the workplace, Anh serves on the board of Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Advancement Northwest, volunteers with the Issaquah Meals program and her local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul.

About Alford Group

Alford Group is a national, full-service consultancy serving nonprofits in nearly every state in the country. Since our founding, we have partnered with over 3,000 nonprofits to accelerate their impact and advance social change. Together, we’re building a world where possibilities are endless and reflect the best of who we are as humans. Alford Group is a Black-owned and -led consultancy, and a proud WBENC-certified women’s business enterprise. Follow us on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn

Read Anh Vo’s full biography here.



Strength-Based Messaging: How to Accelerate Impact Through Inclusivity

Online Webinar

Organizations in the nonprofit community have been leaders when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion – and yet much of the language used in fundraising communications has stemmed from needs-based messaging. This webinar makes time to elevate and uplift the work of nonprofits and the communities served through strength-based messaging. This session demonstrates how strength-based messaging empowers nonprofits, their communities and their donors with real world examples. Hear from a panel of experts who have been integrating strength-based messaging into grant-writing, donor communication, website content and more. Attendees left this session with immediate strategies to refresh and reframe cases for support and accelerate impact through inclusivity.

Slide deck: Strength-Based Messaging Webinar Presentation

Resource: Grants Plus Guide

Five Practical Steps to Diversify your Board of Directors

By JoAnn Yoshimoto, Senior Consultant

Before we plunge into the practical “how-to” ideas, let’s consider a few often-ignored questions: Why are we even having this conversation? Why does board diversity matter? Some of the answers might be philosophical, ethical, equity- or values-based, others might be quantifiable, statistical, evidence-based, but every nonprofit organization must find its own answers to these questions.

Continue reading “Five Practical Steps to Diversify your Board of Directors”

Giving USA: What Lies Ahead for Philanthropy in America

By Araceli Duran, Business Development Associate

Alford Group hosted a webinar that looked at some of the key findings from the new Giving USA report and invited expert panelists to discuss the current state of giving in the country. Let’s take a look at some of the key findings from the report, how you can incorporate them into your organization’s philanthropic strategy and what our panelists had to say on what the findings reveal. Check out this video for a brief summary of the Giving USA results.

3 Key Takeaways from Giving USA 2022


 #1 – Giving reached a record $484.85 billion in 2021

Continue reading “Giving USA: What Lies Ahead for Philanthropy in America”

Giving USA: What Lies Ahead for Philanthropy in America

Webinar | June 29, 2022

The events of 2020-2021 have forever changed the nonprofit community and philanthropy. While they have been unprecedented on so many fronts, the generosity of the American people has been at an all-time high. Throughout these challenging times, the most successful organizations have transformed their programs, operations, how they engage donors and how they advance equity-centered philanthropy. This session will cover fundraising resiliency, insights regarding the future of fundraising, and new ways to approach creating generosity in more inclusive ways.

Take in the Giving USA research, learn about trends among donors both high-net worth and the general public, and hear from an expert panel on what they see lies ahead for philanthropy in America. Join us for this hands-on practical webinar and take new ideas back to your organization to achieve even greater fundraising results.

Moderator: Brenda B. Asare, President and CEO, Alford Group

Giving USA Presenter: Karen Rotko-Wynn, CFRE, Chief Business Enterprise Officer, Alford Group

Expert Panel:

  • Marco Corona, Chief Development Officer, International African American Museum
  • Marguerite Griffin, Director, Philanthropic Advisory Services, Northern Trust
  • Daniel Hungerman, Ph.D., Professor, Economics, University of Notre Dame


#1 Slide Deck: Giving_USA_Presentation_Deck_June_29_Release

#2 Written Summary of Webinar: Found here

Giving USA Report Details
First published in 1956, Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the longest running, most comprehensive report on philanthropy in the United States. It is researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Alford Group is a longtime supporter of Giving USA and member of The Giving Institute.


Putting our fundraising cards on the table: A conversation with funders and practitioners on equity-centered philanthropy

Monday, May 2, 2022 | AFP ICON Conference | Las Vegas | 9am-10:15am

COVID-19 and the national dialog on social injustice have revealed deep gaps in health care, economic opportunity, quality of education, and access to justice for communities of color. Fundraisers are tasked to increase the capacity of their organization to bridge these gaps, in partnership with major donors, public and private foundations, and the corporate sector. This session will use Las Vegas, ICON’s host city, as an example in how philanthropy can be part of a community’s response to expanding inclusion, diversity, equity, and access.

Alford Group is proud to sponsor the ICON2022 IDEA workshop.

Update: AFP IDEA Women’s Impact Initiative

Alford Group is proud to sponsor the AFP IDEA Women’s Impact Initiative. Since its founding in 2018, the Initiative has conducted groundbreaking research on women’s issues in fundraising, created educational materials for charitable organizations and started a mentorship program that has guided and helped numerous women find their voice in the philanthropic profession.

So far this year, mentees in the mentorship program have each had an individual executive coaching session and have met with their mentors to develop both long- and short-term goals over the course of the program. Mentees have also been invited to attend virtual conferences, such as AFP ICON Virtual and a variety of educational sessions with complimentary registration. Since March of 2021, these educational sessions have focused on topics related to women’s issues in the philanthropic sector, encouraging women to build fulfilling and impactful careers. These session topics have included:

  • Finding Your Inner Mentor
  • Making Work-Life Balance Work for You
  • Women’s Guide to Personal Finance
  • Women of Color in Development and Fundraising
  • Imposter Syndrome

Upcoming sessions will include Mental Health and Resilience and a two-part workshop on Inclusive Leadership. Additionally, mentees have been encouraged to branch out and participate in other facets of AFP, creating upcoming content that centers their experience with the goal of helping others find their way.

From a mentee in the program:

“First of all, I think the level of interaction, programming reminders is just right! It did not feel over-curated or sterile, but authentic and warm. The sessions and webinars that I have participated in have been high quality and helpful. I love the focus on the some of the soft skills. I really appreciate the match-up with my mentor and for her time! I did not doubt that my mentor and I would get on great but at first was not sure what we might have in common – me from California and she from Ohio, she with the Girl Scouts and me with AARP Foundation! But the first time we met, little concerns were cast aside. I always look forward to our sessions – I appreciate that my mentor shares about her real life experiences and patiently listens to mine, and I really enjoy our shop talk! I feel very fortunate.”

For more information and news on the Women’s Impact Initiative, go to their website or take a look at the hashtag #WIILead on Twitter and Facebook.

For more content from AFP women leading the way, check out these blog posts:

From Charu Uppal, M.A., M.B.A., CFRE, mentee in the 2020 WII program: Equity in Development: Be Radically Intentional to Change the Lived Experiences of Diverse Fundraisers



From Danisha Bhaloo-Shivji, CFRE, member of AFP’s Women’s Impact Initiative committee: Fundraising as a Choice and Not an Accident