As 2014 gets underway, predictions abound.  With full knowledge that “the best way to predict the future is to create it,” we offer the following ideas for nonprofits to ponder this year and beyond.

Trend One: With the Continued Growth of the Nonprofit Sector, Individual Donors Will Become More Important

The nonprofit sector is growing in both size and influence, government cutbacks are negatively impacting nonprofit funding and corporate funding, while growing, is a mere 6% of total contributions. Nonprofits wishing to survive and thrive in this uncertain and unsustainable economic climate will have to rely heavily on individual donors.  Identifying, involving and integrating these individuals into partnerships to help solve our most pressing problems will be the challenge of 2014.  Nonprofits will need to understand their donors and supporters on a different level – go beyond wealth and beyond demographics – to dig deep into the psyche and motivations of their constituents.  

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Trend Two: Boomers and Millennials Represent Future Fundraising Opportunities that Must be Cultivated Now

2014 will see a shift in focus for nonprofits as they respond to changing demographics in the giving population. Two trends will dominate: first, Boomers are retiring, and as they do so, planned giving opportunities will become much more prevalent. Boomers will also be more involved than ever in causes about which they are passionate, translating into increased volunteering. Nonprofits should be ready with meaningful opportunities that allow their Boomer supporters to apply their business skills and work experience. Secondly, Millennials are developing their unique profile as donors, and indications are strong that they will be civic-minded, creative, and very active in determining how their contributions are used. Nonprofits who want to engage Millennials will need to speak to them on many channels, including mobile, be willing to listen and respond to their ideas and feedback, and involve them as partners and insiders in finding solutions for social problems.

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Trend Three: Organizations Investing in Business Intelligence Will Out-Compete Others for Funding from Public and Private Investors

Over the past several years, Big Data, Data Analytics and Data Visualization have become some of the noisiest buzz words in the nonprofit lexicon.   Data, analytics, and reporting together form the basis of business intelligence, and while many nonprofits are developing core competencies in one or the other of these key functions, it takes a true organization-wide commitment and approach to achieve the benefits of BI and data-driven decision making.  New empirical research from WealthEngine Institute indicates that Data, Technical Support, Technical Planning, Reporting and Analytics are five areas that differentiate the data-informed from the data-uninformed. 

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Trend Four: Continued Demand for Accountability Will Drive Nonprofits to Discover More Meaningful Ways to Demonstrate Impact and Evaluate Effectiveness

2013 saw a growing and widespread call for a fundamental change in the way we evaluate nonprofit effectiveness.  For far too long, nonprofits have been rated based only on overhead ratios, and 2013 saw a long-overdue call for sanity in the sector.  While overhead ratios and other management measures are important, there are several other areas that funders and nonprofits alike should be monitoring to ensure effectiveness.  Outcomes or impact can be measured against a theory of change, and nonprofits should be rewarded for risk taking which can lead to needed innovation.

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Trend Five: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Is Becoming Main Stream

The social evolution of consumers brought about by the ubiquitous spread of social media has had a consequence likely not anticipated by many in the nonprofit or business communities: an unprecedented increase in Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR.  As a result of the rise of social media, corporations have an opportunity to build loyalty, trust and affinity with their clients and prospects and many have seized the initiative by aligning themselves with causes that are complementary to their business strategies and compelling to their constituents.  Savvy nonprofits who can demonstrate their social impact and value have a huge opportunity.

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