Over the summer, we launched our What’s Next? podcast in hopes of preparing our readers for the years to come. We’ve had some awesome guests so far. Here’s what they’ve had to say.
Kishshana Palmer believes that within the next decade, the nonprofit sector will reach a fork in the road. Organizations will either thrive by inventing new problem-solving ideas, or fall behind if they get stuck “limping behind innovation.” This doesn’t have to do with the size of the organization, however. Big organizations that lack creativity and don’t know how to budget will struggle, while small organizations with cutting-edge ideas will rise to the top. They key, she says, is aligning your mission and values with your donors’—bring in partners who really, truly believe in what you’re doing and are in it for the long haul.
Steven Shattuck said the key to fundraising ten years down the road will be making personal connections with each generation. As for his own, the Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997), he says proving your organization’s sustainability will be become even more crucial. This age group wants to ensure the nonprofits they donate to will be around for a while and see something come of their contributions. They’ll be even more savvy, selective and shrewd with their dollars, and they’ll only be interested in donating to causes they feel a real connection to. Don’t forget about the older generation, he says, because that’s where the money is right now. But don’t miss what’s right in front of you, either. There’s going to be a lot of transfer of wealth happening within the next decade.
As Baby Boomers retire and Millennials and Gen-X-ers take over executive positions in the nonprofit sector, Gina Trimarco says having a solid succession plan in place is important.
As far as the transition, make sure the leader has the tools and the skills they need as they assume their new position. If it’s a Millennial, she says, you’re not going to know what they need unless you ask them. And that’s the big disconnect between the generations, especially between Millennials and Gen-X-ers—the former was raised with structure and feedback, so you should provide that as you’re bringing them up. In general, Trimarco says, it comes down to understanding others’ needs and and accepting that, when you pass the baton, their leadership style will inevitably be different than yours.
Ben Bisbee believes volunteer management will become an even bigger factor of nonprofit success in the next 10 years. We always see volunteerism as one of two things, he says—either the volunteers come in for a couple hours every week, or they come in, work once, and leave and you never see them again. He’s noticed that Baby Boomers and Millennials are more interested in having the set, recurring schedule than Gen-X-ers are. They also prefer a skill-based experience where they can use their talents while they volunteer. Strike a balance within your organization between those consistent, recurring volunteers and those who are only looking for a one-time thing and happily accommodate the needs of both types.
Marc Pitman says a positive workplace culture will strengthen your organization as it heads into the future, too. You can have great strategy and skill, but if you lack happy employees and a positive work environment your turnover rate will be high, general morale will be low and your organization will weaken within the next decade. In an executive position, you have the choice to create an enjoyable work environment, and to do this, you should think of the people around you as the solution, not the problem.
These tips will help your nonprofit thrive in the years to come. Don’t forget to tune in to our upcoming episodes of What’s Next?