Author: <span class="vcard">Erin Connell</span>

State-Of-Nonprofit-Header

The State of the Nonprofit Sector in 2017

20CauseKit, Nonprofit TrendsTags: , , , July, 17

By Erin M. Connell, Consultant at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

Those who work in the nonprofit sector know there have been major shifts recently within the field. Economic hurdles, dramatic political shifts, and innovative technologies have all changed the face of the nonprofit world. At Cause Strategy Partners, we serve as witness and counsel to many organizations facing these challenges; through consulting engagements and customized programs, our team works to leverage nonprofit Boards of Directors and ensure organizational successes.

There are four major shifts that we see the nonprofit sector experiencing, and affected organizations can benefit from understanding and responding appropriately.

 

1. Changing sources of funding

Given shifts along political party lines, many communities around the U.S. may be at risk of losing federal and state funding; the risk for sanctuary cities like New York is yet unknown. Per the Jossey-Bass Handbook of Nonprofit Leadership and Management, the stagnant economy has stalled expansions in private sector funding of public sector work. Though government budget cuts and public sector financing reductions have had – and will continue to have – a negative impact on the nonprofit sector, there is hope. For example, the corporate sector is engaging more public sector financing initiatives, such as corporate social responsibility initiatives and employee gift matching programs.

At Cause Strategy Partners, we match high-performing professionals from Fortune 500 companies to the Boards of nonprofits in New York and Chicago, a great way to reenergize a nonprofit’s funding sources. As we expand to San Francisco, we are excited to extend our successes across the U.S. by empowering more not-for-profits through great board leadership.

 

2. Responsive business models

Nonprofits are responding to these changes in funding sources by augmenting their business and fundraising models. Nonprofits are inherently mission-driven, not driven by the bottom line. However, as the number of nonprofits in the public sector increases and the amount of available funding decreases, nonprofits are forced to engage more competitively for resources. The nonprofit sector is increasingly engaging in more for-profit business models.

hot-bread-kitchen-baker-in-training

Baker in Training removes bread from oven Source: Hot Bread Kitchen, hotbreadkitchen.org

Take Hot Bread Kitchen, a New York-based hybrid nonprofit and for-profit organization that combines “social welfare and revenue generation models” by teaching skills to employees while selling the fruits (or baked goods, as it were) of their labor. This hybrid business model increases the public good while bolstering the organization’s bottom-line.

 

3. Increased use of data and technology

The nonprofit sector is engaging in measuring impact and outcomes like never before. Foundations and funders more frequently require detailed explanations of the impact intended by a program, a clear method for measuring that impact, and careful reporting on success compared to stated goals. Business models are integral to this trend towards impact evaluation: fundraising successes can flow from these evaluative methods ensuring program effectiveness, and the data points themselves are often measured in monetary values an untraditional approach for the nonprofit field.

Foundations and funders more frequently require detailed explanations of the impact intended by a program, a clear method for measuring that impact, and careful reporting on success compared to stated goals.

Unsurprisingly, this data-oriented trend has also meant a more tech-oriented nonprofit sector. Having recently completed an MPA at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, I have seen this change reflected in the material taught to students looking to work in the public sector. Courses such as Nonprofit Accountability or Program Analysis & Evaluation teach graduate students to ensure programs are results-oriented and gather data during implementation, to ensure program successes are measured against program goals and activities. Additionally, classes like Design Thinking have become increasingly popular, as the next generation of nonprofit leadership is trained to solve community needs through creative technological solutions.

With increasing frequency, the public sector is employing new technologies and social media to measure data and enhance mission achievement. Of course, not all nonprofits possess the capacity to support such efforts, but the need for data around impact and partnering these tools with new technologies is increasing. In a word, evidenced-based programs are increasingly popular, though they are often expensive and require additional staff time and resources to measure successes. Regardless, the move towards rigorous program measurement and impact evaluation is an important one and is here to stay.

 

4. Changing demographics

The nonprofit sector is led by, staffed by, and serves the diverse spectrum of individuals that exists across the country. Nonprofits, in serving the public good, must position themselves to account for and support these individuals. Below is a selected list of some of the ways demographics across the U.S. are changing – changes to which the sector must adjust.

  • Race: More diverse population in terms of race/minorities
  • Age: Millennials engaging in social sector, Baby boomers retiring
  • Gender: More women working, Greater gender diversity and representation
  • Education: More individuals graduating from four-year colleges and universities
  • Class: Shrinking middle class

As communities change, diversify, and grow, the demographics of those who nonprofits aim to support will similarly change. Nonprofits must ensure that they are appropriately meeting the needs of their clients through their missions and programs. Equally important, nonprofits must also ensure their Boards and staff reflect the clients their organization serves. At Cause Strategy Partners, we were excited to partner with The New York Community Trust to design and launch BoardLead Arts NYC in Fall 2016. Through this program, we matched over one-dozen talented professionals from Google, Goldman Sachs, and MasterCard to arts-oriented NYC-based nonprofits looking to diversify their Boards of Directors. We encourage such initiatives, and hope to see more movement to similarly embrace social change within the social sector.

 

What nonprofit leaders should do

Nonprofits do essential work to provide services and build community across the U.S., and it should be every nonprofit’s top priority to remain mission-aligned and to best meet community needs. In order for nonprofits to continue serving their communities, we advise that you creatively rethink your funding sources, business models, and program measurement tools, all while being responsive to the changing face of program and service recipients.

Specifically, nonprofit leaders should

  1. Strategically employ new technologies and social media platforms,
  2. Reexamine revenue streams and hybrid business options,
  3. Employ data-driven impact evaluations for programs, and
  4. Include more underrepresented individuals and groups at all levels of your organization.

Through these practices, nonprofits will be better positioned to shape the future of our communities and act as thought leaders in our changing world.

 

Erin Connell
Erin M. Connell, MPA is a Consultant and Project Manager at Cause Strategy Partners. She has over five years of professional experience working in both the public and private sectors, and is deeply passionate about public service. At Cause Strategy Partners, Erin collaborates on matters of non-profit management, corporate social responsibility, and board governance. Erin serves on the Alumni Board at City Year New York. She earned her M.P.A. from New York University (2017), and her B.A. from Columbia University (2013).
BoardLeaders-Talk-Tips-for-High-Impact-Board-Service

BoardLeaders Talk Tips for High-Impact Nonprofit Board Service

50Board Service, CauseKit, Leadership February, 17

By Erin Connell, Consultant at Cause Strategy Partners, LLC

Our BoardLeaders have proven their capabilities and drive in sheer numbers, with 56 BoardLeaders serving as high-impact nonprofit board members on 120 boards in New York and Chicago. As we prepare to launch our next round of BoardLead in both cities, our team wondered: what qualitative impact and growth have our BoardLeaders experienced through their nonprofit board service?

I was determined to find out. I spoke with 14 BoardLeaders from the NYC Spring 2015 cohort to learn more. My conclusion? Listen up, because these individuals have some serious knowledge to drop! The BoardLeaders I spoke with blew me away with their insights, their knowledge, and their confidence. Our BoardLeaders know nonprofit board service, and here’s what they had to say.

 

Be-Passionate-about-the-nonprofit-board-you-get-on

1. Be passionate

To excel as a nonprofit board member, you must passionately and honestly support the mission. First, for the nonprofit’s sake and yours, make sure you believe in their work! Your time (and money) is important, so seek service opportunities that invigorate your interests and passions. Second, be honest when seeking board opportunities; be true to yourself and true to your passions when seeking out service. This should be a cause you can get behind for a while, not just for the purpose of padding your resume. If you do this and are pure in your passions, you will set yourself up for the ideal board position – one that doesn’t feel like a job!

 

2. Be clear about your motives

It is important to be clear and honest with yourself, and with the nonprofit, about what you look to get out of board service – and about what they hope to gain from board members. All board members should contribute with their time, treasure and talent, though the degree to which you add to each will depend largely on your motives. Looking to build your strategic management skills? Hoping to contribute to the financial success of an organization? Aiming to commit your free time to a good cause? Understand and express your motives; you and the nonprofit both want a board situation where all parties bring and receive what they can, are comfortable with, and have agreed to.

 

3. Be honest with and about yourself

Understand what skills you can feasibly add to the board, as well as what their needs are. In particular, do your research and honestly look at the commitment. Then be up-front about what time and monetary support you can contribute. 

 

 

4. Make a friend through thoughtful and engaged listening

Before you commit to board service, take time to meet with the board chair, the board members, and the chief executive. Listen to their experiences and stories to fully understand the culture, the needs, and the expectations of the board and the organization. Once you are serving on a board, take advantage of learning from others. Take your fellow board members out for coffee to learn from them what engaged board service looks like. Go to board meetings and events, schedule informational interviews, and foster relationships with your fellow board members – and with the organization’s staff.

 

Be-Vocal-you-have-something-to-give-to-every-organization-and-people-will appreciate-your-participation

5. Be vocal

You have skills and a perspective that can add value – people will appreciate your participation and engagement!

 

Our BoardLeaders don’t just show their value in numbers: they prove to us everyday that strong nonprofit board service is possible through passionate, self-aware, and engaged commitment to service. At Cause Strategy Partners, we envision a world where we’re asked not where we work, but what causes we support. Engaging in high-impact, committed board service is a great way to put your passions to work. Our BoardLeaders have proven this potential; we hope their tips for how to approach and excel in board service will inspire others to do the same.

Erin Connell
Erin M. Connell, MPA is a Consultant and Project Manager at Cause Strategy Partners. She has over five years of professional experience working in both the public and private sectors, and is deeply passionate about public service. At Cause Strategy Partners, Erin collaborates on matters of non-profit management, corporate social responsibility, and board governance. Erin serves on the Alumni Board at City Year New York. She earned her M.P.A. from New York University (2017), and her B.A. from Columbia University (2013).

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons