Nonprofit Sector Trends

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Trends in the economy, demographics, technology, communications, and even how we spend our leisure time, can affect the decisions nonprofits make and their fate as effective and sustainable organizations.

It is our hope that by shining a light on nonprofit trends, those who lead charitable nonprofits, as well as those who invest in their missions, will be armed with information useful for decision making and planning for the future.

How do trends affect board members?

When you are asked to participate in strategic planning, or make a decision that will affect the nonprofit's future, what information is useful? We believe it is useful for all board members to be aware of the external influences that are shaping a nonprofit’s environment. Helping the nonprofit's leadership recognize trends, is part of the board's duty of due care.

How do trends affect grantmakers?

Many of the trends affecting charitable nonprofits, such as state governments being starved for cash, also affect the operations of grantmakers because they share the same tax-exempt legal structure with charitable nonprofits, and are committed to solving the same social problems as their grantees. Accordingly, when grantmaking organizations appreciate the trends and pressures their grantees face, and go so far as to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as advocates for policies that allow nonprofits to thrive, grantmakers are true mission partners with their grantees. When demand for services in communities outpaces the resources that nonprofits have to fill those needs, and at the same time, governments are spending less due to budget cuts, many look to philanthropy to fill the gap. Unfortunately the gap is too large for individual donors and private foundations to fill, but informed grantmakers will seek to understand spending trends by government in their community in order to make strategic decisions about grantmaking.

What are the top trends facing charitable nonprofits?

The top three trends for charitable nonprofits will continue to be: (1) limited resources; (2) increased demands on nonprofits, stemming from increased needs in communities; and (3) the growing awareness that every nonprofit and board member needs to be an active, vocal advocate for her/his nonprofit’s mission to affect policies in the community, and at a national level. We've sourced some background resources for you to stay up to date with important trends:

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