Five Trends Shaping a New Reality for Nonprofits

Jay Wilkinson was a guest contributor and speaker at Cause Camp 2016Wilkinson currently serves as the CEO of Firespring—a Nebraska-based company that provides fundraising campaigns, comprehensive website packages, donor management tools and IT help desk support to thousands of organizations worldwide. Firespring tools help nonprofits raise money and manage events while presenting a professional online presence.

This post was originally run in our bi-monthly Nonprofit Hub Magazine. Sign up to receive your copy today.


The old adage remains true: The only thing constant is change. That’s why it’s crucial for nonprofit professionals to stay aware of the always-shifting landscape. If we get complacent or inflexible, we risk becoming irrelevant and ineffective.

That said, here are five trends that are shaping a new reality for nonprofits everywhere. I’ll go over them briefly here, but Nonprofit Hub is sure to have much more to talk about at Cause Camp in March.

Shifting Demographics

Did you know that the largest generation working in the nonprofit sector right now is Generation Y? For Gen Y, or the Millennials, volunteering is simply a way of life; they’ve been doing it for years. Many of them went to schools where community service was required. This generation wants to make a difference, and for them, working collaboratively is second nature.

What this means for you: It’s important to make young leaders feel like they’re a part of the big picture.

Greater Interest in Service

When President Obama took office, a significant thing happened in our country: Civic engagement increased. Both individuals and companies began to take more measures to give back. I’m not just talking about Gen Y—this happened on both ends of the age spectrum. Retirees also became inspired to get involved and micro-volunteering (giving up a day or a weekend for service) became popular.

What this means for you: People want to volunteer, but we need to find new ways to engage with them.

Blurred Lines Between Nonprofit and For-Profit

The line between nonprofit organizations and for-profit corporations used to be very clear. Today, that line is fuzzy. Regulations that once favored nonprofits are coming under fire as businesses are becoming more civic-minded. At the same time, 501(c)(3) organizations are straying further outside the bounds of traditional service in order to advance their missions. The two worlds are melding together now more than ever before.

What this means for you: It’s important to acknowledge that corporate causes may now compete with local foundations for donor-directed funds.

Technological Advances

Technology can be aggravating. Once you think you have a handle on it, it changes. But the truth is, once you embrace it, technology can be liberating. You don’t have to be tech-savvy in order to benefit from technology. Just focus on three areas: simple apps and web tools; your website CMS; and donor database and/or member management tools.

What this means for you: Refusing to embrace technology can mean missed opportunities.

New Ways to Collaborate

If you still use a rolodex, you may want to rethink your networking tools. Today, it’s easier than ever to stay connected thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and especially for nonprofits, LinkedIn. The beauty of the LinkedIn platform is it’s basically a digital rolodex but with more valuable features—and you never have to update it. Your connections do that for you. It might be tempting to avoid social networking. But for better collaborating, it’s a tool to embrace.

What this means for you: Social media provides a way for you to leverage your message.

Make plans to check out Cause Camp where you can learn more about how each of these trends and others may affect your organization.

See you in March.

nonprofit trends

Jay Wilkinson

March 24, 2016

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