The Importance of Following Trends

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By F. Duke Haddad

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word “trend” shows several meanings. Trends could be a prevailing tendency or inclination; a current style or preference; a line of development; a general movement over time of a statistically detectable change or a line of general direction. Trends could also be an assumption of direction based upon historical facts or estimates. It is very important for professionals in the nonprofit sector to be prepared for what is ahead in any given year.

That is why in January of this year, I created a NonProfit PRO Magazine article entitled “What Does the Crystal Ball Predict for Nonprofits in 2021.” Now that we are five months into this calendar year that has been filled with change and uncertainty, I wanted to revisit this topic. See from your own experience if the predicted trends have become reality.

A blog by Traction on Demand suggested that the top nonprofit industry trends for 2021 would include consolidation and uncertainty for many organizations. Companies would need to be resilient and be here now to prepare for the present and future. They would also have to find innovation and responsiveness to the present reality of the situation.

Development staffs would need to continue to seek big gifts. The evolution of digital change post COVID with a push to virtual everything means nonprofits must step up to this challenge. It is critical that resource development staffs step up their relationship building programs, focus on donor loyalty and improve their game. Have you seen this take place so far this year?

A NonProfit Times report on 2021 trends noted that for this year dynamic forces are at work, the nonprofit sector can build public trust, social justice funding is growing, and philanthropy is trauma-informed, philanthropy and government are playing overlapping roles in the public sphere, there is a greater blurring between business and philanthropy, data is coming of age in, and the next generation is starting to make big changes.

Are you seeing any of these trends this year or will these thoughts be temporary or permanent? For many, research guides thoughts and implementation in some form.

A Wild Apricot blog about nonprofit sector trends for 2021 pointed out that:

  • How people give is changing.
  • Monthly giving is on the rise.
  • Giving Days will continue to be popular.
  • Gen Z will evolve as givers this year.
  • Video trends will keep rising.
  • Stories will grow in importance as keys to give.
  • Digital is here to stay.
  • Virtual events are here for now.
  • Nonprofit and For-profit partnerships will increase.
  • Volunteer engagement will be virtual and non-virtual.

The National Council of Nonprofits stated that trends in the economy, demographics, technology and communications are affecting organizational board members and grantmakers. This year, the top trends facing nonprofits will be limited resources, increased demands and growing pressure on nonprofits to perform. Have you seen these issues so far this year? If not, are you witnessing the following trends as a precursor to what might be coming? These include budget cuts, changes in giving patterns, increases in donor advised funds, board members stepping up as advocates, and organizations being sustainable?

Galaxy Digital’s blog about nonprofit trends for this year believes key areas for focus include technology through going mobile and greater texting. New social frontiers will be utilized to bring greater emphasis on social media. Facebook and TikTok are catering to different generations. Video marketing and fundraising continues to expand. Nonprofit management practices are becoming more thoughtful and impactful.

Organizations will need to stay mission focused and clear about their priorities, especially in the communities they serve. The role of transparency continues to grow. Greater emphasis on how to reach, engage and retain donors are the norm. Monthly giving, online fundraising, corporate giving and volunteerism are key emphasis points for development staffs. Nonprofits are placing greater focus on examining systems and processes. Is your nonprofit taking the status quo approach or is it gearing up for greater competition and relevance?

A post by Morweb states the obvious. 2020 was a difficult year because of COVID-19, and nonprofits have been scrambling to adjust to changes in the way society operates. Five challenges for 2021 put forth by Morweb are changing fundraising practices, virtual events continuing for a time, volunteer practices are placing a strain on nonprofit volunteer recruiting and retention, ways of communication are changing, and community engagement practices are evolving. Are you seeing an overlap of trends by various research outlets?

Salesforce notes that nonprofits in the United States account for between five and 10 percent of the country’s economy and about 10 percent of the country’s employment. This company feels, with respect to the nonprofit sector this year, demands for services will continue to increase, digital experiences will remain a strategic initiative, data management will create efficiency and transparency, plus grantmaking will be more collaborative. Going forward, the next normal will be different.

Think about the proposed trends you have studied for 2021. Are they holding water for you? With changes in government policies, greater national debt, increasing inflation, an uncertain economy, plus confusing CDC policies, just to name a few, the year 2021 is in a transitional state for sure. It is important for nonprofit professionals to follow multiple trends from a variety of sources and see were these trends overlap.

Several things are certain in 2021 thus far. The year 2020 is behind us and 2021 is transitioning to a new normal. Let us see how this year plays out for the nonprofit sector. Examine where you are so far this year and where you expect to finish in 2021. Focus on what you can control. Prepare for unpredictable events and different types of challenges ahead. Remember that all of us in the nonprofit sector are experiencing a new reality. Step up your game and enhance your focus. You have no other choice as your organization can either seek to thrive or just survive.

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