There has never been a better time to be associated with a nonprofit organization! As third-sector organizations continue to grow and as more people are putting their passions into action, the demand for related services continue to increase. However, with continued growth and success come new challenges that organizations, professional staff, volunteers, and even target populations must contend with. In this post, we’ll explore three of the major trends that third-sector organizations — and those who are interested in them — should follow closely in the near future.
"If you’re not afraid to do things the right way in an increasingly transparent environment, your organization and you will thrive! "
Trend 1: Increased Accountability
Due to the nature of the work being done by nonprofits, as well as their goals to enhance the lives of their target populations (as opposed to maximizing revenues), governments grant these organizations special tax-exempt statuses. These exemptions allow the organizations to devote more funds to initiatives and operations that would normally be taxable. While tax-exempt status can be beneficial and can facilitate organization success, in recent times there has been increased scrutiny of organizations regarding proper use of this status. As a result, financial and operational activities are being monitored much more closely, both by government officials as well as other interested parties, to ensure that nonprofits are operating in an appropriate manner.
Take away: If you’re not afraid to do things the right way in an increasingly transparent environment, your organization and you will thrive!
Trend 2: Need is Increasing … and Increasingly Diverse
As stated above, the demand for nonprofit services continues to grow, even as the sector and total number of third-sector organizations continue to rise in tandem. While this continued demand implies that there are bountiful work opportunities, organizations must consider the possibility that they are not meeting the needs of their target populations. As such, organization executives must ask themselves the tough questions regarding their ability effectively provide what they promise and major organization changes may be necessary.
- Does it make sense to restructure the executive board in order to facilitate better decision-making and problem-solving practices?
- Would a merger with a related organization help to fill gaps in the delivery of services?
- Are certain policies and procedures simply not working? Is a minor or major overhaul in operating procedures required?
Take away: If you’re not afraid to make the tough decisions, this challenge is definitely right up your alley!
Trend 3: Responsibilities are Being Shifted from the Public Sector to Nonprofits
As the third sector has grown, another “good” problem that it has experienced is an increase in responsibilities and service requests being shifted to it from the public sector. While such a shift implies an acknowledgement of nonprofit organizations’ expertise, professional acumen, and overall effectiveness, the sheer number of service requests that the public sector has and is continuing to ask third-sector organizations to take over is a bit overwhelming. Additionally, the third sector has collectively been historically weak in areas of public policy lobbying and formulation. The result of this is increased responsibility for organizations without a comparable increase in policy-making participation. While this combination can be viewed as somewhat disheartening, the opportunities that it provides opens up possibilities to expand operational and service-related horizons, as well as policy-related ventures.
Take away: If you’re not afraid to blaze a trail, these challenges will allow you to be a true pioneer!
Heraclitus is oftentimes credited with the immortal quote, “The only thing that is constant is change.” These words have never been truer than in third sector. The uncertainties and evolving nuances that are associated with constant change can be intimidating. However, those who embrace change and are willing to use their expertise in a matter that facilitates positive change will find themselves at the forefront of an ever-evolving field — and ultimately as those dictating the future of the sector!