This white paper will look at past and current trends and offer some predictions regarding what the future might have in store for nonprofit organizations. We will consider a range of areas including leadership, structure, operations and management, fundraising, volunteerism, technology and marketing. We asked some of the professionals in the nonprofit community to share their own insights and we will add those to our continuing discussion of some of the potential challenges and opportunities that may be facing nonprofit leaders as they navigate over the next decade, and what their options may be.

Opening Remarks: Why Looking to the Future Matters Today

Before we begin, let’s define the nonprofit community. According to a recent report, “The State of Nonprofit America,” the nonprofit sector is one of the most important components of American life, but it is also one of the least understood. Few people are even aware of the sector’s existence, though most have come in contact with it at some point in their lives. Included within the sector are most of the nation’s premier hospitals and universities, almost all of its operas and orchestras, all of its religious congregations, the bulk of its environmental advocacy and civil rights organizations, huge numbers of its family services, children’s services, neighborhood development, antipoverty, and community health care agencies, not to mention social clubs, professional associations and labor unions.

Understanding what the nonprofit community represents, we can now go on to a meaningful discussion about the sector and how it is changing in both obvious and subtle ways as it continues to grow and expand. There are more than two million nonprofit organizations in the United States, and they all are impacted by new regulations and demands, by the economic landscape both globally and locally, by technology and all its seemingly endless capabilities, by its maturing leadership, by its changing demographics and by many other seen and unforeseen forces.

While some of the changes that are predicted in this white paper are decades away and may never occur, other new trends are closer to home and are already beginning to take root.

It is important for the leadership of any thriving organization to always be aware of the future and what it may hold in store for them. While nonprofits of previous generations were notorious for not being intentional and structured enough in their approach to success, today’s nonprofit leaders know they cannot afford to put their heads in the sand while focusing only on the immediate tasks at hand. Instead they are consistently forming strategic planning committees, hosting strategic retreats and purposefully preparing for tomorrow while doing the work that addresses the needs of today’s constituency.

Leaders of, and consultants to, the nonprofit community are indeed looking ahead – and they are talking about what changes they see on the horizon. As an integral part of the fabric of the social, academic, political and economic fabric of our communities, nonprofits play an essential role. From schools to hospitals to the arts and sciences to housing and social service agencies who assist the most vulnerable, nonprofits are not separate and apart from the larger for‐profit, corporate world, but rather they are bound to it as both work together with a global commitment to improve the lives of people everywhere.

Looking ahead will help nonprofits be more preemptive and anticipatory and, as a result, better prepared for change. They can be ready to react to new situations and to take a proactive stance as change agents as well. Everyone agrees – today’s nonprofit leaders need to be well equipped for any of the roles they may be called upon to assume over the next decade and beyond.

To download a PDF of the complete White Paper, click here