Vertical Expertise

of four

Business Shifts - Grant making Foundations

Two shifts that grant-making foundations face today include a shift from providing grants via their foundations to strategic collaboration and a shift of some power as well as decision-making to benefiting communities. Some trends in digital marketing that grant-making foundations see today include the use of social media for marketing, websites, and the use of apps. These innovative trends have existed for a while and are considered by some observers as the norm.

Shift to Grants via Strategic Collaboration

  • An American magazine known as Barron's states that billionaire philanthropists are shifting from making grants via their foundations to a new process of channeling grants to communities through strategic collaborations.
  • A University of Georgia publication states that new models used by grant-making organizations go beyond the traditional practice by introducing innovations that foster and facilitate collaboration among various or diverse stakeholders.
  • Some individuals or groups that have traditionally channeled grants via their foundations include Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford. Today, grant-making foundations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among other foundations, are structurally shifting towards strategic collaboration with billionaires, NGOs, charities, as well as government organizations to provide grants.
  • This trend, which is a shift, is positive because it seeks new ways to generate far-reaching environmental as well as social change. Another benefit of this shift is that grant-making foundations obtain the best results via collaboration.
  • An American grant-making foundation (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) is commitment via collaboration to cure several diseases. The San Diego Trafficking Prevention Collective, strategically leverages the efforts of two-dozen philanthropists, as well as a collaboration with the UBS Optimus Foundation, government officials, school districts, and local organizations to raise awareness on human trafficking within the California county.

A Shift of Power and Decision-Making Process to Communities

  • Grant-making foundations are exploring additional ways to involve community members in funding decisions. Although funding decisions have been influenced via community input for a while now, the trend is "becoming more pervasive" as well as creative as foundations seek ways to "shift" more power on decision-making processes toward the communities they try to serve.
  • This shift mirrors similar shifts in leadership practice, management, as well as governance and has recognized that the people that are closer to the served communities have more expertise to handle problems as well as develop innovative responses.
  • The study assumes that this shift is a positive shift because it does not just focus on "raising money and giving it away," but also focuses on developing leadership and learning among the participating communities.
  • One grant-making foundation leveraging this trend is the Giving Project. The project trains a cohort of 25 volunteers through a six months intensive program to make the group understand philanthropy and discuss race, class, and power in society. The cohort acquires adequate coaching and support to participate in fund-raising for programs related to social justice for own friends, family, as well as the community.

Social Media for Marketing

  • A recent study on the type of innovations within United States foundations by the University of Georgia reveals that one of the digital marketing trends that grant-making foundations see today is the use of social media for marketing.
  • Social media communications on platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, as well as other social media messaging platforms, are the innovations relative to technologies that have been adopted by grant-making foundations for marketing. These foundations also use these digital platforms to communicate as well as connect with stakeholders.
  • Non-profit social media marketing has become "a powerful outreach tool" among grant-making foundations. One of the factors driving social media marketing among non-profit organizations making grants is the recent rise in the popularity of mobile devices as well as information that is readily available at our fingertips. The pervasive nature of petitions, the demand for movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and similar movements, as well as the increase in fund-raising options, have provided a new way for organizations to increase their visibility, engage with, and activate their audiences online.
  • Social media drives mobile giving and traffic that lead to fund-raising websites, and grant-makers are taking advantage of this trend. About 60% of referral traffic relative to grants comes from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram combined. Facebook accounts for 89% of the combined traffic.
  • One of the advantages of social media is that it provides a cost-effective, creative as well as flexible marketing channel to communicate a story to an audience. Some grant-makers across the United States using Facebook collaboratively include "Grantmakers in the Arts" and "Orange County Grantmakers."
  • Facebook recently collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to provide an avenue to match or market fund-raisers to donors and vice versa. The process matched about $2 million worth of gifts through some collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The partnership between Facebook and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation indicates a shift to collaboration among grant-makers as earlier uncovered.
  • One of the digital marketing trends that grant-making foundations are seeing today relates to the use of websites.
  • Grant-making foundations often engage in website overhauls as innovative ways to effectively use technologies in their communications or connections with stakeholders and during marketing. Website overhauls are among a list of innovations that have almost become the norm among grant-making foundations.
  • Grant-making foundations often leverage these websites to promote strategic collaboration, which is one of the positive shifts identified above. An example of a grant-making foundation that leverages its website to boost its strategic collaboration is the Denver Foundation. The foundation uses its website to request applications from prospective collaborative partners.
  • Another grant-making foundation that gives yearly updates on its website for collaborative opportunities is the Cullen Foundation.
  • The mobile web dominates all the categories of fund-raising channels used for marketing among non-profit corporations. This trend should be noted while developing and updating fund-raising strategies.
  • Some grant-making foundations using websites to market their offerings include the Russell Sage Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other foundations. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation utilizes a web-based database for digital marketing.


  • One of the digital marketing trends that grant-making foundations are seeing today relates to the use of internally developed apps.
  • Grant-making foundations often use internally developed apps while communicating or connecting with stakeholders as well as while marketing. Internally developed apps are among the list of innovations that have almost become the norm among grant-making foundations.
  • Apps are used to promote collaboration among players within the grant-making sector. Blackbaud is one of the institutions that offer relevant cloud-based apps for grant-making foundation and helped grant-makers collect over 500,000 applications in 2017. This utilization of apps promotes one of the shifts previously identified on collaboration.
  • Blackbaud has a rating of 8.2 on a scale of 10 among users on Trust Radius. One of the pros recorded by reviewers of Blackbaud's app is that it allows for greater collaboration as well as improved impact in giving and gives access to "lots of users to collaborate with."
  • Salesforce has a cloud that assists grant-making processes by providing "a marketplace for grantors" as well as grantees. Salesforce's "foundationConnect " app is used for grant-making and is accessible via this link.

Research Strategy

The study investigates shifts in business that grant-making foundations face today. It also examines trends in digital marketing that grant-making foundations are seeing today. This study includes American news and periodic media publications like Barron's. A limited number of resources discussed the above insights in articles that focus solely on the United States. Hence, resources of American institutions that explain the required insights or give examples of American grant-making foundations leveraging them are in the study. The study considers trends or insights that have been reported as trending by academic publications such as publications of the University of Georgia and supported by multiple resources. The research includes organizations leveraging highlighted trends and also highlights where the included digital marketing trends align with the shifts in business that grant-making foundations face today.
of four

Thought Leaders - Non-Profits

Peter Buffet, Melissa A. Berman, Kathleen P. Enright, Tony J. Fundaro, Nina Waters, Emily Wexler, Aimee Coley, Erin Baird, Marcus Walton, and Stacy Palmer are some leading influencers/thought leaders in the non-profit organization industry, specifically for grant-making and community foundations.

Peter Buffet

Melissa A. Berman

Kathleen P. Enright

Tony J. Fundaro

Nina Waters

Emily Wexler

Aimee Coley

Erin Baird

Marcus Walton

Stacy Palmer

Research Methodology

Your research team leveraged findings published on lists of top philanthropic thought leaders in America, along with articles and news publications about thought leadership. We found lists of renowned thought leaders in philanthropy, with a specific interest in grant-making. Unfortunately, most of the events these leaders are involved in are run by their organizations; therefore, it is unclear whether the events are their ideas or the organizations.' For each thought leader, we have provided their website, a brief description of their current role, their philanthropic involvement, and a link to their digital publications, as available.
of four

Business Shifts - Member Based Associations

Two shifts in business that member-based associations face today include marketing opportunities and member engagement. Two trends in digital marketing that member-based associations see today include website usage and personalization. Details regarding these shifts and trends have been provided below.

Shifts in Business

1. Marketing Opportunities

  • Currently, there are several marketing opportunities for membership, which have made the job of marketing professionals in member-based associations increasingly complex and hard to manage.
  • Previously, the conventional marketing methods for membership were email, phone, and direct mail. As it stands, there are several approaches to marketing, such as social media marketing, search engine marketing, and content marketing, among others.
  • While the shift will make marketing more difficult, the new opportunities will enable organizations to acquire more members. Tony Rossell, senior vice president of Marketing General Incorporated notes that associations are constantly looking for new marketing strategies that will increase membership growth over time. According to the executive, organizations that take advantage of tools and technologies, such as chatbots and artificial intelligence will see more success in membership acquisition.

2. Member Engagement

  • A survey by GrowthZone, which interviewed over 500 associations, revealed that engagement was a top challenge in 2019.
  • One of the reasons why members may leave an association is that they feel lost due to the lack of engagement. Organizations, such as the American Society for Quality are using new types of messaging to reengage inactive members.
  • Despite the decline in member engagement being a negative shift in business, associations can leverage on new engagement channel experiences, such as using chat interfaces, live streaming, and push notifications.


1. Websites

  • In 2019, MultiView conducted a survey of 1200 associations in the US. The study found that websites were the main digital marketing channel used by member-based organizations. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents noted that websites were a very effective marketing channel.
  • In addition, 51% of member-based associations update their website content on a weekly basis.
  • Websites are among the marketing opportunities that have caused a shift in business for member-based organizations.
  • Approximately 39% of associations spend more money on digital marketing when compared to traditional print marketing. Out of all the digital marketing channels, websites are being used the most.

2. Personalization

  • Member-based associations have utilized personalization strategies for the past few years. Personalization has been fueled by the saturation of similar organizations that are targeting the same group.
  • Member-based organizations are now using marketing automation tools to convert website visitors. The tools enable marketers to personalize landing pages and content based on data generated from visitors. They also help in analyzing visitor behavior.
  • Personalization has a positive impact on member engagement since associations can effectively address the needs of current and potential members. Associations can craft custom user experiences using location, career stage, and interest to increase engagement.

of four

Thought Leaders - Professional Associations

Jeanne Bliss, Bruce Temkin, Michelle Golden, Kerrie Kelly, Doug Tedder, Julie L. Mohr, Jennifer Wilson, Geni Whitehouse, Michael Pollan, and Lisa Damour are ten leading influencers/thought leaders in the member-based professional association industry.

Jeanne Bliss

Bruce Temkin

Michelle Golden

  • CPA Practice Advisor named Michelle Golden as one of the top 25 thought leaders in the accounting profession. In 2015, she was inducted into the Association for Accounting Marketing's Hall of Fame.
  • She is an author, and speaks and teaches professionally for many organizations. Although she has retired her blog, Golden Practices, it is still live with evergreen content. She has articles on, Accounting Today, CPA Marketing Report, and many other websites.

Kerrie Kelly

  • Kerrie Kelly is a thought leader in the interior design industry.
  • She founded Kerrie Kelly Design and is the chair, board of trustees of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Kelly is an author, contributor, speaker, and on-air talent.
  • Her publications are available through her company's blog and YouTube page.

Doug Tedder

  • Doug is a recognized thought leader in the technical support and service management industry. As a member of HDI, the industry's first professional association, he is a contributing author, blogger, and frequent speaker at national conventions, webinars, industry forums, and local interest group meetings.

Julie L. Mohr

  • Recognized as a top thought leader in the technical support and service management industry by HDI, Mohr is an author, consultant, and international keynote speaker in the industry. She is a co-host of The Authenticast, which features a podcast and blog focused on the industry.

Jennifer Wilson

Geni Whitehouse

Michael Pollan

  • Recognized as a thought leader by the American Psychological Association (APA), Pollan is an author and speaker. He spoke at the APA's convention in 2019. His books, articles, videos, and interview are available via his website.

Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

  • Damour, who spoke as a thought leader at the APA's convention in 2019, is a psychologist, speaker, New York Times columnist, best-selling author, and regularly contributes to CBS News. Her articles and books are available via her website.


From Part 01
From Part 02
From Part 04