A Look Ahead: Non-Profit Trends for 2020

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Close to 1.6 million non-profits currently exist in the United States and donors contribute about $390 billion annually. The competition for these dollars is expected to increase as organizations compete for their share of charitable giving.

What’s more, the number of non-profits has been increasing steadily each year, with many organizations having similar or overlapping missions. Having a sound strategy, efficient management practices, and a unique and effective fundraising plan has become more important than ever.

How does your non-profit prepare itself to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond? Staying one step ahead of trends and taking a broad view of the current environment and new opportunities is a first step. Here are 10 trends that we believe will have an impact on non-profits in the years ahead.

1. Charitable giving is on the upswing. Millennials (the largest segment of the 2020 workforce) value giving and create an opportunity for non-profits to tap into new donor populations. Although their contributions are currently smaller, as their earnings grow they will be an important population for non-profits to cultivate.

2. The political climate will be both a help and challenge for non-profits. Although uncertainty may make some donors more hesitant to submit, non-profits have an opportunity to raise awareness and involvement for causes that may no longer be funded at a national, state, city, or local level.

3. Technology will continue to radically change the non-profit sector.

Automation will help deliver management efficiencies, reducing overhead.
Marketing technologies enable more precise targeting of prospective donors and an artful combination of streamlined marketing with human relationship building will enable non-profits to reach the most likely prospects.
Social media will continue to build awareness and facilitate micro-donations. In fact, $120 million was raised through Facebook on Giving Tuesday 2019.

4. Talent acquisition and employee retention have become significant issues across all sectors of the business world and mission-driven organizations will find themselves competing for the best employees. These startling statistics from a recent survey should prompt every non-profit to take stock of their plans for culture-building and team development.

51% of fundraisers said they will leave their current nonprofit within the next two years
30% said they planned to leave fundraising altogether
55% reported often feeling unappreciated
21% agreed that the negative things about their jobs outweighed the positive

5. Branding will matter more than ever. Not only will non-profits need to continue to establish their own compelling points of difference and credibility, but strategic alliances with consumer-facing brand companies will remain a source of new dollars. For example, Walgreen’s Red Nose Day generated $18 million to fight child poverty. Amazon recently announced a partnership with The Nature Conservancy to investigate climate solutions. A whopping 73 percent of people consider a company’s charitable work when making a purchase.

6. Transparency and privacy are among the keywords of 2020. Today’s donor expect the non-profits they support to be honest and open with financial and operational data and to treat donor data with respect and care. Companies suspected of mismanagement or wrongdoing are now publicly outed via social media, so the stakes are higher than ever. Says Doug White, philanthropy advisor and author of the book Wounded Charity, “Donors, both large and small, are increasingly interested in how their money is being used. It’ not just the amount being donated. Charities need to be aware of this, not only because they shouldn’t take donors for granted, which is clearly intuitive, but also because charities need to make good on what they promise. I think of it as an ethics issue, but the courts are also taking an interest in ensuring that a donor’s intent, agreed to by the charity, is satisfied. Charities are entering an era of heightened expectations relating to accountability.”

7. Competing for share-of-voice in the media will remain a significant challenge. Awareness-building across multiple channels demands a tight and creative marketing plan. Non-profits will need to seek out creative ways to expand their reach, use local communities in their fundraising, and spend their precious dollars more judiciously to cultivate new donors and stay connected to past donors.

8. Sadly, disaster-related giving will continue. Close to a third of Americans contributed to aid in the face of natural disasters, mass shootings, and the like. Although non-profits cannot prepare for these incidents, they need to move quickly when they do occur.

9. Board and team members (and donors) will come from unexpected new sources. The proliferation of well-funded technology companies creates a new opportunity for filling non-profit Board seats and cultivating donors. What’s more, many people are choosing to leave the private sector for more fulfilling opportunities. Look beyond your traditional models and consider everyone in terms of what he or she can bring to your organization. The number of minority Board members, including women of color, is expected to increase, as are younger volunteers. Diverse perspectives lead to new ideas.

10. Disruption is not just for tech companies. Those non-profits that will succeed in 2020 and beyond are those that encourage new thinking and stay on top of consumer and business trends. Attending conferences, studying best practices, and monitoring trends in consumer behavior and marketing are all ways to expand your thinking and innovate.

The speed of life and business is accelerating and 2020 will challenge all non-profits to think quickly and creatively about how to expand and operate efficiently. Above all, remain open to new thinking and create a focused yet flexible plan for growth.

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