Foresight: Predictions for 2016

What’s in store for the year ahead? How will the big shifts discussed in the Insights section affect your work next year?

Here are my predictions for 2016.


● The Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission will do nothing to stem the tide of money flowing anonymously through nonprofits into political campaigns.

● At least one nominally independent nonprofit will get caught illegally coordinating funds or activities with at least one presidential campaign. The evidence will be digital.

● At least one new foundation or foundation program focused on biological privacy will launch.

● The Black Lives Matter movement will remain active and very much in the media eye through the November election.


● Private data from a major nonprofit will be hacked, leaked, and used for political activism. Likeliest targets include women’s health clinics; climate science researchers; and organizations working on issues related to immigration, guns, or criminal justice.

● The scale and frequency of weather-related disasters will reach a new high.

● More American foundations will close overseas offices than will open them. (I will have a hard time tracking data on this.)

● Governments will increasingly rely on aerial drones for photography while simultaneously enacting regulations on their use by businesses and citizens.

● Refugee flows will increase globally, and migration patterns will rise in political and economic importance.

● The software powering a major transportation network will be hacked and will result in severe damage to lives and property.

● Despite disappointing evaluation results and their own built-in requirement for results, social impact bonds will continue to grow in popularity.Evaluation findings over the course of 2016 will continue to show how difficult the work itself is, regardless of the financing mechanism.


In addition to big ideas that matter and my 2016 predictions, surprising and unlikely things just might happen, such as:

● Billions of dollars will not be spent on the American presidential campaign.

● The U.S. will experience an outbreak of an infectious disease, such as measles, that had been considered eliminated.

● The Bright Lines Project will succeed.

● The U.S. laws defining political activity by nonprofits will be clear and enforced.

● The U.S. Congress will pass new laws regarding immigration.

● Greater limits will be placed on the charitable tax deduction for U.S. nonprofits and donors.

● Clean, machine-readable tax forms from 2014 for American nonprofits will be online for anyone to access.

● A major on-demand tech company will fail as a result of its employment practices.

● A policy fix to address the high costs of college and the student debt crisis will be implemented.

● American foundations will begin funding in Cuba.