5 Trends for Nonprofit Businesses in 2021

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by Wayne Elsey

It’s that time of year again where we see lists of things from the best books to read to listicles about trends. As nonprofit and business leaders know, recent events have accelerated our move and immersion into technology. In short, as humans partner more with technology, lots of new and creative ways to operate and work are opening up.

If you want to stay ahead of the curve and compete with the changes happening in the philanthropic space (e.g. impact investing, corporations leading social good efforts, social entrepreneurship), start thinking about how you could integrate any of these developing trends into your organization.

1. Green Is Only Getting Bigger

One of the shifts my team and I recently experienced was the public’s heightened awareness of repurposing and recycling. Candidly, we got more accounts for our marketing team because companies realized that the time for green fully arrived.

The public embraced the green movement. Perhaps it was when we saw reporting about how travel and movement restrictions helped the environment. Or it could be the countless reports, including from the Red Cross, that climate change is a more massive threat than the pandemic.

2. There Is No Offline or Online

Often, we speak of the offline and online worlds. But that doesn’t exist anymore. People spend so much of their waking hours online and in the digital space, which means that it is their reality. Moreover, virtual and augmented realities are growing!

Therefore, nonprofits have to consider how to reach people in every way possible and not segregate online from offline. Messaging has to be consistent, relevant and engaging to take action from wherever they happen to be, with no demarcation between online and offline.

3. Marketing Teams Are Customer/Donor Experience Teams

Marketing teams have become customer experience or donor experience teams. In the past, there was a focus on how to market the brand. However, that’s upended, and everything is about the customer, or in the case of nonprofits, donors.

In other words, marketing teams have an essential focus, and it’s not just the brand. Marketers need to ensure that the donor experience is second to none. Brands need to recognize that donors or customers are front and center within an organization, from how leadership envisions the future to operations and, of course, marketing. Fundraisers were right when they asked their teams to be donor-centric.

4. E-commerce Is an Opportunity for Nonprofits

E-commerce is growing exponentially. Brick-and-mortar stores have undergone massive changes and evolution. We now have contactless shopping, and more people enjoy the ease of purchasing whatever they need with a few clicks on their mobile or computer. It’s also why we now see sellers moving in droves into social media to sell their products.

E-commerce is an opportunity for nonprofits as well. One of the lessons in 2020 is that diversification is essential. Selling merchandise is an opportunity to raise brand awareness and for another revenue stream. For instance, if you promote your products on social media, you have the power of artificial intelligence to ensure you target the right audience. As a nonprofit, you have to make sure you comply with IRS and state regulations, but commerce is an excellent way to raise brand visibility and earn more revenue.

5. Get Ready for Generation Z in the Workforce

If you thought that Millennials entering the workforce was disruptive, get ready for Generation Z. And they don’t view the world as older generations. Between Millennials and Generation Z, these two groups represent the vast majority of the workforce.

As we know, no cohort is ever the same as earlier groups. What’s unique about Gen Z? They are recognized as the first generation that grew up entirely in a digital world. That means they process information differently than older generations. They will push your organization toward more innovative technologies, which is great. But you also have to be clear and transparent with Gen Z, so learn what makes them tick.

In sum, the year ahead will bring with it many things that we might not have expected earlier in the year. However, the above trends are already part of the work and social landscapes. They’ll only become more expansive in the coming year ahead.

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