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Looking to the Future
As part of its Philanthropic Landscape 2012 event, The Rome Group assembled a panel of local nonprofit and fundation leaders to discuss what the future will look like for fundraising and nonprofit management over the next 5-10 years. Here's look at what they have to say:
 
Dr. Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science and Faculty Co-Director of the Stanford University Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society
"We think in metaphors. And these days the use of natural disaster metaphors to describe the environment of the nonprofit and philanthropic sector is all-too-common. The CEO of the Independent Sector, Diana Aviv, talks frequently about the “coming tsunami” of reforms in the tax code that could affect charitable giving. Others point to a “perfect storm” of federal, state, and local budget cuts and declines in charitable giving that together threaten the fiscal health of many nonprofits.

I reject this natural disaster metaphor and instead suggest that there are deep and foundational changes afoot in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. In other words, not a passing storm but a tectonic shift.

Tectonic shifts can be perilous, of course. But they also provide opportunity, as they re-arrange the terrain on which we live.

At the Philanthropic Landscape event in July, we will discuss the macro- and micro-trends that are shifting the ground beneath our feet, and examine the implications for nonprofits, foundations, and the overall health of our democracy. I hope you will join us."
 
Carolyn Kindle, Taylor Family Foundation
"Change occurs so rapidly that even a woman in her 30s ometimes feels behind the trends favored by her younger friends. The not-for-profit sector must stay ahead of these trends, no matter the age of your organization. Consider the massive transfer of wealth in the next few years to a new generation that communicates differently, has different interests than its parents and wants to give of its time AND money. Engaging these young people will take more than a letter asking them to support your annual fund. To make them loyal, long-time supporters, consider using social media to share fascinating facts, encourage their participation and inspire them to give.
 
"Once you have their commitment, stay in touch. Competition for dollars among an expanding number of organizations will be even more intense in the future. Successful fundraising will require a solid business plan, expertise in stretching dollars through collaboration and consolidation, a board diverse in skills and backgrounds, and a top-notch professional staff. In order to grow and prosper in the future your organization must differentiate itself through creativity, flexibility and a high level of commitment to your mission."
 
Kelly Pollock, COCA
"The business climate is turbulent, chaotic and ever changing. Old approaches no longer work. Likewise, there are no linear, simplistic answers to delivering social impact in the nonprofit sector. Traditional forms of philanthropy – “we do good so please give us money” - will continue to be challenged as new corporate-based entities (such as benefit corporations or L3Cs) enter the “social good” arena and provide additional investment options for private dollars. Nonprofits must revamp
their business models and assure funders that their dollars are being used to build a better tomorrow. It requires a more strategic approach, one that focuses on financing and investing, rather than just fundraising.

"In order to make this shift, nonprofits need to start communicating about our impact. We must move from a deficit-based, scarcity mentality (a reality that plagues the field) and communicate about the value we offer and the change we seek to make. We must paint a compelling vision of the future, accompanied by a sound plan to get there, and one that utilizes effective partnerships beyond the
usual suspects. Nonprofits must also cultivate smarter Boards that ask good questions, encourage innovation and challenge traditional sector norms. As demand for nonprofit services increases, nonprofit leaders must initiate honest and difficult dialogue with Board members and funders about the need to build internal strength in order to extend external reach. Many nonprofits are undercapitalized and struggling. It is up to leadership to demonstrate that there is a better way.
 
"Funders and donors must move from buyers to builders. Nonprofits will always need the support to deliver additional services, but they must also have the capital to build better organizations that can truly execute their theories of change. We need to recognize that helping nonprofits grow vs. helping them become sustainable are often in conflict and we must develop strategies to accomplish both in order to survive and flourish."
 
Jorge Riopedre, Casa de Salud
"Over the next few years, non-profits will generally continue to have to do more with less. It is likely that fewer government dollars will be available and many foundation dollars will also be curtailed as their endowments slowly recover from the damage done by the recession. And despite the dearth of resources, non-profits will be expected more than ever to show meaningful and measurable results.

"This environment has a number of implications for non-profits that want to thrive:
  • "Non-profits must be laser-focused on their mission. As much time must be spent on understanding what NOT to do as on what should be done. Organizations that chase pots of money instead of using available resources to advance a defined mission will not be successful.
  • "Increased effort must be made to develop a base of engaged individual donors. Methods of communication that tell your story effectively, take into account generational differences (e.g. Gen Y vs. Millennials), and help differentiate your organization as the BEST at what it does will be indispensable.
  • "The single biggest thing a non-profit can do now to be successful later is hire people who are naturally passionate about the mission and who will be as concerned about the clients they serve as about themselves. Every person on the team must either be directly delivering on mission, transferred to an area where they can deliver, or be let go."
Rev. Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
"Predicting the future, or “foretelling,” is a significant element of prophecy in faith traditions. The more advanced prophetic act, though, is the declaration of what people should do in light of the circumstances of the day, or “forth-telling.” Forth-telling is always rooted in one’s sense of the ideal future state of being.

"My prophetic hope for non-profit organizations is that they are clear about their mission, led with integrity and sustained by hearts of passion. This combination would lend to elimination of duplication of agencies as people see the value of working together. Collective action leads to enhanced capacity to think, act and speak systemically regarding the root causes of our social challenges. In this vision, the unified voice of the social service providers could also be a prophetic voice on social justice issues.

"Because systemic action and advocacy require new modes of organizational learning and being, philanthropies must model this behavior and create space for building non-profit efficiencies. This challenges funders to be patient, recognizing that significant change doesn’t happen overnight. So, multi-year funding commitments should, perhaps, be more the norm. Finally, collaborative funding efforts will allow for community-wide impact on our most intractable concerns.

"Theologian Walter Brueggemann suggests that it is not enough for prophetic personalities (individual or institutional) to critique the current state of affairs. Rather, the prophetic being must illustrate an alternative way of being. To prepare for success – defined by positive social results - non-profits and funders must model a mission-first, collective, systemic approach to their activities today. My hope is that Deaconess is seen in this light."
 
Erin Budde, Wells Fargo Advisors
"Demographic and economic changes support the continued evolution of corporate and private philanthropy as new issues emerge and government funding changes. Existing and newly formed nonprofits will seek increased philanthropic funding to meet increased and new needs, as well as to fill resource gaps created by shifting government allocations and contracts. In response, philanthropic funders will have to find ways to do more with existing and sometimes shrinking resources.

"Nonprofits would do well by continuing to improve their hard work of attracting and retaining individual donors and expanding the impact of these fundraising efforts through social media and networking. At the same time, nonprofits will need to continue becoming more strategic in their efforts to partner with a targeted selection of common-interest corporate and foundation funders, while leveraging monetary support with sweat equity and pro-bono volunteerism, as well as advocacy for their missions."
 
Gary Dollar, United Way of Greater St. Louis
"The next five to 10 years will continue to be a time of flux and increasing change for not-for-profits and philanthropy. Ongoing reductions in government funding and the full emergence of the “next generation” of philanthropists will challenge both fundraising and how services and programs are delivered and evaluated. The importance of measuring and communicating outcomes will be heightened as emerging donors place less value on loyalty to a specific organization and more value on those that deliver what the donor wants to accomplish. There will continue to be a strong sense of philanthropy and generosity, but it will be “cause/outcome” based versus organizational based. Deep relationships and understanding of donors’ visions and desires will be essential.

"While some organizations see the recent economic challenges as a time to “get through,” the reality is that fundamental changes occurred/are occurring that will require new ways of thinking and working for not-for-profits. Two characteristics that are a must for organizations are flexibility and resiliency. Organizations willing to be open to new demands and evidence based practices versus “the way it has always been done” will have a competitive advantage in developing resources. In such an environment, organizations need to have a deep understanding and commitment to both mission and, especially, core values. Without these anchors, agencies will find themselves chasing the wind versus riding on the currents."
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