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5 Nonprofit Trends to Watch in 2015

By Nell Edgington



5 Nonprofit Trends to WatchI love this time of year. Not just because of the approaching space for relaxation, friends and family, and great food, but more importantly because it is a time for reflection. The end of the year offers a natural analytic marker between what was and what is yet to come.

And as is my end of the year tradition on the blog, it’s a time to look ahead to what the coming year might bring for the nonprofit sector. I’ve always said when I create my Trends to Watch lists that I am less clairvoyant and more optimist. I am always hopeful that the nonprofit sector is growing more effective, more sustainable, more able to create lasting social change. That’s the trajectory that (I freely admit) I am predisposed to see.

So here are 5 things I’m really hopeful about the nonprofit sector as we head into the new year.

You can also read past Nonprofit Trends to Watch Lists for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

  1. Growth of the Sharing Economy
    The emerging “sharing economy,” where a good or service is shared by many instead of consumed by one and managed largely through the use of social technologies (think AirBNB, Netflix, TaskRabbit and countless others), will have wide implications for the social change sector. The sector that employed “sharing” long before it was cool will need to understand this changing environment and the implications for their work. Nonprofits should figure out how to navigate this growing interest (and increasing for-profit competition) in the realms of community and goodwill. It will be fascinating to watch.

  2. More Focus on Crowdfunding
    One element borne out of the sharing economy is crowdfunding, and there is no doubt that it is everywhere. I have written before about my skepticism. But my hope is that crowdfunding will move away from ALS Ice Bucket Challenge-like hype and become another financing tool that nonprofits can use strategically. We need to get smarter about what crowdfuding is, and what it isn’t. A Kickstarter campaign makes sense for startup and other capital needs, but not for ongoing revenue. And while Giving Days are exciting, I’d like to see more analysis of what’s new money and what is cannibalized money. There is no doubt that crowdfunding is a force to be reckoned with, I just hope we turn it into a useful, strategic tool that contributes to — not detracts from — sustainable social change financing.

  3. Decreasing Power of the Overhead Myth
    The Overhead Myth, the destructive idea that nonprofits should spend as little as possible on “overhead” expenses (like infrastructure, fundraising, and administrative costs) was laid bare in 2013 when GuideStar, CharityNavigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance wrote their famous Letter to the Donors of America. This year they wrote a follow up Letter to the Nonprofits of America, arguing that both nonprofit leaders and donors must stop judging nonprofits by their overhead rate and instead focus on a nonprofit’s outcomes. It’s exciting to see this most detrimental of nonprofit myths beginning to crumble, but there is still much work to be done. Not least of which is helping nonprofits articulate and measure their outcomes so that they have a more effective measure with which to replace the overhead rate.

  4. Growing Emphasis on High Performance
    Which brings me to the growing movement for creating more high performing nonprofits. Over the past several years there has been an emerging effort to move nonprofits toward this outcomes approach to their work. The idea is that if nonprofits can better articulate and measure the social change they seek, more resources, sustainability and ultimately more change will follow. In the coming year, a group of social sector leaders (of which I am a member) will release a framework for what practices constitute a high performing nonprofit. But that is just one example of a growing emphasis in the social change sector on results.

  5. Greater Investment in Nonprofit Leadership
    Nonprofit leaders have long traveled a lonely road with inadequate support and resources. Funders and board members often assume that a leader should go it alone, even while for-profit leaders benefit from on-going coaching, training and development. But that is starting to change. A few savvy foundations have invested in nonprofit leadership, and they are beginning to trumpet the benefits of such investments. As more funders understand why investing in the leaders of the nonprofits they fund makes sense, I am hopeful that nonprofit leadership support will become less of an anomaly. And with stronger, more effective and supported leaders comes — I firmly believe — more social change.

Photo Credit: slorenlaboy

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (www.socialvelocity.net), a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.


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13 Comments to 5 Nonprofit Trends to Watch in 2015

[…] From the sharing economy, to crowdfunding, to the overhead myth, to nonprofit leadership and more, here are 5 things to watch in the nonprofit sector in 2015.  […]

[…] contrast, in a reflective blog post by Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity, the following trends are predicted for the nonprofit sector in […]

Stephanie Grams
December 28, 2014

#5 is long over-do. The majority of CAA are desperate for educated leaders in one capacity or another. They would do well for their organization and the community they serve if they would take the time and funds and invest in a community outreach specialist that would be the “face and voice” for the organization, build relationships with all community leaders and allow to be focused on true relationship building. Perhaps the “feast or famine” of funds would lessen or deminish.

Jim Toscano
December 29, 2014

Great trend list. Wow!
Here’s mine: http://toscanoadvisors.com/2015-ten-nonprofit-trends/
All best wishes for 2015. jim toscano

[…] From the sharing economy, to crowdfunding, to the overhead myth, to nonprofit leadership and more, here are 5 things to watch in the nonprofit sector in 2015.  […]

[…] Velocity notes that as crowdfunding becomes a more viable option for many organizations, it's important to consider how it's being used, not if. Crowdfunding is a great idea if you need to inject money into a specific operation, say […]

[…] contrast, in a reflective blog post by Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity, the following trends are predicted for the […]

[…] his predictions is because the nature of crowdfunding for nonprofits is still being figured out. Nell Edgington expresses skepticism, asserting: “We need to get smarter about what crowdfunding is, and what it isn’t. A […]

[…] From the sharing economy, to crowdfunding, to the overhead myth, to nonprofit leadership and more, here are 5 things to watch in the nonprofit sector in 2015.  […]

[…] Do yourself a favor and sign up to her email newsletter and get tons of free high quality content for your organization. For the entire list of trends, head over to Nell’s blog here. […]

nonprofitnihonjin
July 22, 2015

[…] 5 Nonprofit Trends to Watch in 2015: http://www.socialvelocity.net/2014/12/5-nonprofit-trends-to-watch-in-2015/ […]

Complete, Reflect, Assess
August 27, 2015

[…] contrast, in a reflective blog post by Nell Edgington, President of Social Velocity, the following trends are predicted for the […]

[…] You can also read past Nonprofit Trends to Watch lists for 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. […]

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