Nonprofit trends for 2012: predictions for the future
What societal trends will have the greatest impact on nonprofits in 2012? Convio, a firm that tracks nonprofit donor trends and provides software to help nonprofits manage their constituent relationships, predicted the following trends in a recently released report: (1) the maturation of social media, such as FaceBook and Twitter, to promote programs and services; (2) more on-line giving through smart phones and the Internet; (3) greater peer-to-peer engagement; (4) increase in supporters dictating the terms of their interactions; and (5) information overload between nonprofits and their donors, patrons, and customers.
The number one prediction in the report is that online and new media channels will continue to expand their influence. This prediction was based on Convio’s research that online fundraising is up 40 percent from 2009 and that older donors are more engaged in web-based communications and advocacy. The report also cited an example that 15 percent of direct respondents to a specific TV campaign launched by a nonprofit accessed the nonprofit’s website via a mobile device. Nancy Gardner, chief development officer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, echoed this trend by stating,” Social networking and web technologies will be leveraged in ways we have yet to imagine. Consider that only 10 years ago the Internet was just entering standard usage. The nonprofit groups serving Sonoma Valley are already accelerating strategic forays into the world of social media as a method of giving.”
The prediction of greater peer-to-peer engagement means that direct communications from nonprofits will have less of an impact on the giving decisions of donors and, instead, donors will rely more on referrals and guidance from friends, family, and co-workers. So, nonprofit leaders will be wise to encourage their most loyal supporters to become active promoters of the organization’s mission. Melanie Hamburger, principal of Catalytic Women, a local membership organization for women in philanthropy, also predicts this emphasis on relationships. She said, “Nonprofits that reach out to women and provide meaningful opportunities for them to engage as donors and volunteers will likely develop a consistent base of funding. In general, individual donors provide the most stable year-after-year funding for a nonprofit–much more so than foundation, government, and corporate grants or, even, special events. Women, in particular, place tremendous value on relationships. The nonprofits that succeed in cultivating these long-term relationships with women will thrive financially.”
The trend of nonprofit constituents dictating the terms of their experiences with nonprofits should cause organizations to increase the level of customization they provide. Communications with donors and people served by nonprofits will need to have content that is specifically targeted for a particular audience and delivered in a way preferred by each audience member. More and more, nonprofits will have to mirror the sophisticated methods used by for-profit companies to reach their customers. The Convio report also predicted, “Strategic communication efforts that are consciously coordinated, orchestrated, and targeted–based on particular audience segments and their individual preferences–will become more prevalent.” The prediction of information overload between nonprofits and the community they serve could result in donor fatigue. As individuals receive a barrage of communications via email blasts, text messages, RSS feeds, tweets, and FaceBook posts with increasing intensity and frequency, it becomes more challenging for nonprofits to have their unique messages heard.
Jessica Thomason, Sonoma Valley Museum of Art’s development director, weighed in with this prediction, “I see a variety of trends impacting Sonoma’s nonprofit sector in 2012. Our changing economy provides opportunities for nonprofits to reinvent themselves and come up with creative solutions to engage audiences and do more with less. In a small community such as Sonoma, I can see how donor fatigue sets in. The nonprofit community will have to work together and, rather than compete for dollars, come up with alternate solutions to create collaborations that will support one another. Trends that incorporate peer-to-peer engagement, open and honest communications with donors, and more strategic approaches to solving problems will help the sector in 2012.”
Elisa Stancil, vice president of special projects for the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, predicted, “To create public benefit on the local level, all nonprofits must hone their focus and their mission…To best create programs and solutions that are efficient and fully productive, nonprofits must share their knowledge, their physical resources, and their best practices with one another. I believe this community first trend will be the winning strategy for Sonoma Valley in the coming year.” Nancy Gardner of the Boys & Girls Clubs supports this emphasis on nonprofit cooperation by stating, “Collaboration between the nonprofits serving Sonoma Valley is more critical now than ever. I predict a nonprofit coalition will gain momentum and shared funding and planning will be the new normal.”
Melanie Hamburger reflected on a trend she sees regarding increased opportunities for women to serve in nonprofit leadership roles and said, “Women are seeking intellectual and community engagement, and are ideal candidates for nonprofit boards. Many women choose to take a break from their careers to raise families. By the time children are grown, these women have valuable life experiences that may not be appreciated at full worth by potential employers. These women seek leadership opportunities where they can make an impact in the world around them, and volunteering on the board of a nonprofit organization can provide the satisfying work they seek.”
In conclusion, Nancy Gardner said, “I am an optimist. I have tremendous hope for the nonprofit sector in Sonoma Valley. The on-going recession is an opportunity for us to get smarter, more open, more strategic and more sustainable… The under-resourced nonprofit sector must shift the focus from the good work we do and the services we provide, to a focus on the broader social change we are working toward.”
Time will tell which of these predictions will ring true.
Dr. B.J. Bischoff is the owner of Bischoff Performance Improvement Consulting, a Sonoma firm specializing in building the capacity of nonprofit organizations and public sector agencies to better serve their stakeholders. She assists her clients with strategic planning, organizational and personnel performance improvement, fund development, and community relations. She is President of Impact100 Sonoma and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.