Five Trends in 2008 affecting Non-Profits

Price of Energy Rising

The price of energy is starting to be felt. Meals-On-Wheels will be more costly to deliver, and any agency that runs a shuttle or transports goods or people will be dealing with a permanent increase fuel costs.

Web Commerce Comes of Age for Non-Profits

After receiving a newsletter from my local cross-country skiing association, I was pleased to be able to go online and quickly renew my yearly membership, and order an updated map (which now I’m not sure I needed), and order a couple of skiing hats. I also paid for a family membership instead of my usual individual membership. So, with virtually no live-intervention I “up-selled” myself from a single membership of $35.00 to a total expenditure of almost $100. More importantly, I felt great doing it. I didn’t feel as if I was responding to pressure from a phone salesperson. The take-away here is that organizations that allow frictionless interaction with their members will profit in 2008. Those organizations that make it difficult to give them money will miss out on revenue opportunities.

Scandals Affect Large Non-Profits

Red Cross, Smithsonian, United Way, and other large non-profits have substantial work to do to re-earn the trust of their donors and constituents. The Non-Profit Quarterly, the New York Times, and other outlets documented the wretched excesses of their boards and executives. The era of autopilot donations to such organizations is over. We need board members and staff who are committed to the agency mission, and that see service as something other than just another notch on the resume.

Recession Spillover: Donors

With discretionary funds drying up, individual donors will pick and choose where they donate (see above). In our household we practice “zero-based” giving and we re-evaluate our donations every year. First come organizations from which we receive a product (public radio, public television, trail and bicycling groups). Next come health-care and welfare agencies in our local community; breast-care, rape crisis, homeless shelter. We have long stopped giving to national groups.

Recession Spillover: Clients

It is going to be tougher for the middle class to stay in the middle. Rising energy costs, rising health-care costs, the mortgage lending meltdown; there is substantial financial pressure on the 99% of the American population who didn’t have their taxes cut. So what is this environment like for people already on the margins? We saw in our local area that some homeless shelters were managing double their previous year’s case-load. Food shelves had fewer donations and double-digit increases in people looking for help.
So, how can you position your organization to be more effective in 2008?

  • Update your web site to allow on-line payments with credit-cards and PayPal.
  • Create membership packages and products that allow you to effectively upsell your donors when they log on to donate. It takes as much effort to sell a $35.00 membership as it does to sell $125 or more membership+merchandise.
  • Provide a web-based project management system for board and staff to publish minutes, status reports and information for internal use. Board members and staff need to have a “frictionless” way of interacting, just as your donors and clients do.
  • Can all of your staff tele-commute when necessary? Could you obtain the services of top-notch talent via telecommuting or videoconferencing?
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