Dawning of a New Challenge
As we embark upon a new presidential term, and the executive decisions and congressional actions that come with it, it is important to reflect on some of the current challenges that face the nonprofit community. Declining donation rates. Federal budget cuts. Changes in policies. Increasing service demands. With these challenges, though, come an opportunity – an opportunity to change the ideas and strategy behind what we call philanthropy. It will be impossible to succeed and have an impact by continuing the practices of the past. Now is a time to revolutionize giving back.
The fundamental shift that is occurring is a question of what is the purpose of the nonprofit organization – as social challenges shift away from governmental responsibilities – who will be there to pick up the slack? Who will feed those in need, protect those who are threatened, .and comfort those in pain? How will nonprofit organizations fit into this new charitable paradigm?
How can nonprofits revolutionize giving back? What steps can they take now to better situate themselves moving forward? Here are a few of the major ideas we think will become exceptionally important in the coming months and years.
Investing in infrastructure
A lack of focus on infrastructure can have limitless consequences, but those that come up most frequently are time wasted with outdated technology, untrained staff members, poorly constructed and designed websites, and lack of strong data management. While some of these may seem like luxury items, such as an engaging and dynamic website, as the nonprofit world shifts, your constituent base will continue to change was well. Where will people be going to get information in the future? How has your interactions changed with your constituent base over the last few years? Does your staff have the knowledge and skill set to keep up with these new communication challenges?
Data management is especially key to developing infrastructure – without proper collection and sorting, any data you want or could be tracking is wasted. Take the time now to assess how you are collecting, storing, and interpreting your most important information. Who has access to this information? How is it being used? Technology is opening up so many opportunities to learn more about your constituents, donors, and volunteers than ever before, but being able to utilize this new information is dependent on investing in infrastructure.
A common theme in nonprofit circles is the idea of better accountability to donors and volunteers. With accountability comes transparency – what exactly is your organization doing to help the community broken down into dollars, cents, and people helped. Important in communicating transparency is an understanding of how to best communicate your impact.
Transparency comes in many different formats, from an annual report, to charity guidelines, to social media standards and practices. From a social media standpoint, who is posting to your social media pages? Where is content coming from? How are you using data that people provide to you through contests, surveys, and questionnaires? By being upfront with your audience, and by focusing on transparency, you will gain greater trust and loyalty from your base moving forward, even as your constituent and donors base continues to change.
Focusing on partnerships
Corporate sponsorships, volunteer boards of directors, and cause allies are all traditional partnerships that nonprofits have been utilizing for years. But as corporate giving decreases, volunteer time becomes more scarce, and other nonprofits are fighting for the same attention and dollars, a shift in the idea of what makes a partnership becomes more critical.
To put it simply – how else besides donating money and volunteer hours can others help your organization? Perhaps it is in social reach – do any of your contacts or corporate partners have an especially large social media audience? Do they have access to an audience that has never heard of your organization before? Perhaps they are aligned with other nonprofits that are reaching a similar audience and community – how can you best work with them, instead of acting as competitors, to best help those whom you are dedicated to serve?
Social media, communications, and online fundraising are small, but important, pieces of a larger nonprofit success puzzle. Focusing on developing better infrastructure, being more transparent, and developing innovative partnerships will be crucial for nonprofit organizations to succeed within this next presidential term and beyond.