Identify Nonprofit Trends + Randy Ford

Here at Etymology Consulting we focus on three areas: Identify, Innovate, and Implement.  Throughout the year we will be focusing our content and bringing in thought leaders as we tackle these three buckets.

Let’s dive into Identify which by definition means to recognize or distinguish.  Identifying the trends in your industries is important as you set intention and strategy for the year.  If you haven’t identified then how can you distinguish or measure what will make this year a success or a failure.

The nonprofit world is continuing to grow and monitoring the trends brings about awareness and education around the economic and social changes taking place in our world.  Here within the US it’s important to keep an eye on our government, especially with our new 2023 Congress and the upcoming 2024 elections.  To be successful in serving their mission and objectives, nonprofits must run and operate like a business.  One of the biggest gaps we see with nonprofits is that they struggle to tell their story and tell it in an impactful action lead way.  We have invited Randy Ford, nonprofit consultant and storytelling strategist to join in this important conversation.  

Let’s do a quick retrospect on the trends of nonprofits in 2022 that materialized.  Out of the 12 nonprofit trends that were published by MembershipWorks, we narrowed it down  and grouped it into to 3 categories that we have continuously seen and experienced in the work that we do here at Etymology Consulting as we partner with nonprofits or that our founder herself experienced as she serves on the board of directors for two nonprofit organizations.

2022 Trends: 

  1. Digital transformation – leveraging technology to ensure there is a scalable and sustainable technology stack that aligns with the roadmap of the organization.  2022 still saw many digital events, mobile forward strategies including donor and volunteer experience, and online fundraising efforts.  
  2. The art of storytelling – it’s evaluating throughout the donor or volunteer lifecycle what, when, and how you share the why and mission of the organization.  Keep in mind though that storytelling doesn’t stop when the donation is received but rather how that donation impacted, what the results or output that came of it.  It’s transparency, vulnerability, and reporting analysis that is tracked and shared.  Capturing and tracking requires a partnership with our first trend.  
  3. DEI in nonprofits – even with the growing conversations and awareness around DEI around the world, there are countless studies that have found that diversity in leadership is still a very small percentage for minorities.  This is especially true in the nonprofit sector.  Taking action to live out DEI means showing that diversity in both your nonprofit leadership and the board of directors.  Additional studies show that just having one person isn’t enough, but when you have the power and collaboration of 20-30% minorities in your leadership framework, it positively impacts the organization.  

Randy, what’s your feedback and retrospect on the 2022 trends?

Randy response: When it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, it has been great to see stories of organizations finally making real progress. Just like in the private sector, organizations in the social impact sector made important commitments in 2020 to examining how they do things and who they serve. But there was so much else going on, such as the pandemic and the presidential election, that there wasn’t always space for leaders to understand how to have those conversations and start making real change. I think we finally saw steps in the right direction last year. Over that same time, nonprofits were able to start coming out of the early pandemic changes with a sharper focus on how to engage with their audiences digitally.

Now let’s take a moment to look at what’s trending for the 2023 year, according to Funraise.  We think it’s fascinating to see how the 2022 trends have evolved and transformed into the 2023. Certainly the political arena and other world stage events will also impact, but it’s good to set the intention for the year and be agile as we walk it out.  Again we have narrowed it down and categorized as we did with 2022, but what is interesting is that they all have a tie back to digital and technology transformations.

2023 Trends:

  1. Digital payment options and yes even crypto.  The statistics coming out when digital wallets is offered is staggering and we would go as far to say that you can’t fundraise effectively without it.  Don’t forget that anonymous donor option though.  
  2. Donor lifecycle which includes storytelling, giving experience and staying in communication especially via SMS is a huge focus.  Along with this is the e-commerce of donations similar to the business to consumer focuses especially around reoccurring donations or even subscriptions.  Remember nonprofit is a business and should operate like one so also leverage the business to business strategies too.
  3. Don’t necessarily abandon the things that became essential during the pandemic as things are progressing back to where they were before.  Embrace a partnership of the pre and post pandemic trends including the hybrid events, working sessions or even hybrid work spaces.  

Randy, excited to hear what you are seeing coming to the forefront for 2023.

Randy response: Organizations I talk to are focused on re-establishing their voices, and they’re doing that by embracing authenticity. In their social media, in their legacy outreach models, in their advocacy approaches, they’re finding ways to highlight the people they serve and how they make a difference for them.

Thanks for those insights into the trends.  Now let’s take a moment to discuss the political landscape and how this new 2023 Congress will impact nonprofits?

Randy response It seems clear to me that this won’t be one of the most active Congressional sessions in terms of advancing meaningful legislation. But nonprofits still have important opportunities to get their messages across and build championships. Now is a great time to be an education source. I’d advise nonprofits to reach out to their key congressional offices, ask who works in their issue areas and build a relationship. Just say, “We want to be a resource if you have questions in the field we work in.”

This is certainly something to keep a close eye on and we certainly appreciate how plugged in you stay.  

Randy, any final thoughts that you want to share with our readers today? 

As we talk about the political side of things and realize how slowly things might move, especially compared to how fast political news cycles will go, it’s a good reminder to have a long-term vision and maintain that focus. Regardless of what happens on cable TV minute to minute, nonprofit leaders should spend every day thinking about what they can do now in their own reality to advance their mission in a year, five years, 10 years. When things seem volatile, it’s crucial to remember a strong, well-managed, mission-focused organization will outlive the uncertainty. 

Thank you Randy.  Be sure to stay connected with Randy on LinkedIn.  

contact us.