Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with Wayne. We’re in the process of publishing a book we wrote together that will be released soon. I’ve worked in the social sector for over twenty years. I’ve known Wayne now for almost two years and I’ve been working with his team on SEO, strategy and some content writing.
While I was visiting home from my other country in Europe, I had time to talk to Wayne. He asked me a good question and I want to make it the subject of this post. What he asked, is since I have been working with nonprofits for more than two decades and seen a lot of chaos, what I thought were the biggest changes and challenges?
My View of the Biggest Changes
I was very fortunate in my career to have landed, right out of the gate, with a fabulous and naturally gifted fundraiser. She is like the “Bill Clinton” of fundraising. She taught me a lot that I would never find in between the pages of books. She taught me about relationships and how to build and manage them. She taught me a lot about strategy.
I started working on major campaigns when I was barely 30 years old with high-powered global and economic leaders in New York. In those days, if a CEO cared about something, it was probably going to get funded. I think that’s a big change in the sector. That’s no longer the case.
The reasons for this are simple. Companies have learned they have to truly align their corporate social responsibility (CSR) to their business plans. With technology and the ways we’re seeing it innovate and change things, you also have a greater dialogue happening. When I started in the business, we dictated when and what our constituents would see from us. That doesn’t happen anymore. An organization has to be ready to adapt to the conversations that are happening, both in the media and social media, that might not even include them directly.
Social sector organizations now have to be aware they are no longer dictating what and how they communicate. The dynamic has gotten flipped on its head. The best organizations know they have to be everywhere the donors and supporters are in their marketing efforts. Additionally, they must provide people with value. No one cares about thoughtless self-promotion. There’s simply too much information aimed at people every day. Today’s consumer, whether it’s a donor, champion or supporter knows how to sift through the chaos to find information that adds value to them.
My View of the Biggest Challenges
I think the biggest challenges are actually opportunities. I think that smart nonprofits and social enterprise leaders can see the following opportunities:
- Funders across the giving spectrum are demanding more accountability, transparency and proven impact. Organizations that demonstrate these qualities have the upper hand.
- I think diversity in the funding base is an incredible opportunity. Leaders who understand that the typical donor profile is quickly changing will be able to adapt. They will also take advantage of learning the different types of messages that resonate with specific donor segments. For example, there’s a major shift happening at the highest levels, which will trickle down. Many of the top donors in philanthropy now are under the age of 40 and from the tech sector. That alone is very different than when I began in the industry.
- I think there is room to test new ideas and strategies. I think nonprofits really have to get that message. Funders are expecting creativity and innovation. They understand that some things will fail, but the best organizations will learn and move forward with that information.
In conclusion, I believe the philanthropic sector is evolving. It’s always changing, but what makes these times different is the degree and breadth of change. It’s enormous. As Wayne has said, “Chaos is the new normal.”
Wayne is the author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: The Rise and Fail of Charities and What You Can Do To Be Ready” (Free Digital Download)
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