Looking forward (and inward): Trends to expect in 2015
Over the past few years, nonprofits have been increasingly looking inward at their operations, technology, infrastructure, and staff capacity. Creating mission-centric programs is still central, but as the sector matures, more and more leaders understand that it takes more than just great programs to advance a mission, especially in tougher fundraising climates.
I see this playing out largely in two areas.
Yesterday’s Executive Directors are now increasingly called CEOs, and they are running nonprofits with a sharper focus on communications, development, HR, and more traditionally ‘for profit’ business-like strategies. In 2015, I expect we’ll see that trend continue: increasingly, CEOs understand that communicating well externally requires communicating well internally, too.
Here’s how I think that shakes out: In the past, the focus of communications was almost entirely on “the stuff that gets sent out.” These days, more nonprofits are (wisely) prioritizing building a team of strong communicators internally, coordinating the messages that donors and other external audiences receive, and building a healthy work culture. That means making sure the right people are hired, giving them better support to build their skills, integrating values into daily decision-making, and working to break down departmental silos and barriers.
Another outgrowth of this more internal, capacity-oriented POV is an increased use of rebranding as a strategy to help align staff internally around how to communicate, and boost revenue.
Big Duck and FDR Group’s 2014 study, “The Rebrand Effect,” noted that 92% of participating organizations rebranded to communicate more effectively, with fundraising as a leading motivator to do so. 58% of participants have more confidence in their staff’s ability to communicate well on behalf of the nonprofit, and to use the new brand to help assess things like the alignment of programs, for examples.
Although many of the participants worked at organizations that had rebranded very recently (in the past two years) and weren’t sure what the net gain might be, 50% of participants observed an increase in the revenue of their organization since they rebranded. The research also showed that new leadership and a new strategic plan or focus helped.
All of this focus on internal capacity is in the spirit of working smarter, more effectively, and towards the mission. In 2015, I hope we also begin to see a greater alignment between technologies (fundraising software, databases, email service providers, marketing automation software) and people, too. The more leadership, staff, and technologies are aligned, the more effective nonprofits will be at fundraising, communicating effectively, and achieving their missions.