Three Nonprofit Predictions for 2011

by Steve MacLaughlin

The new year brings optimism and opportunity. It can also bring some uncertainty and anxiety about the future.

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I have a lot of data and observations from around the nonprofit sector. Here are three predictions for 2011:

Giving gets better

The global recession certainly had a heavy impact on the nonprofit sector. Giving to organizations for the past three years has taken a hit from the economic maelstrom.

Some positive trends toward the end of 2010 should set the stage for a recovery in 2011.

The Blackbaud Index of Charitable Giving has shown several consecutive months of positive growth in fundraising heading into 2011.

The Index reports total monthly online and offline revenue trends for 1,412 nonprofit organizations, which together represent $2.2 billion in annual revenue.

Online giving has experienced double-digit growth and this should continue in 2011 as well.

Recovery by large and small-sized organizations is happening. Medium-sized organizations have continued to struggle, but as conditions continue to improve, fundraising performance get better every day.

A key ingredient to success in 2011 will be how well nonprofits apply the lessons learned about donor retention, stewardship and diversifying their fundraising sources.

Social gets integrated

For a few years now, the use of social media by nonprofits has resembled the early days of the Internet. The focus has been primarily on building awareness and communicating to a broad set of constituents.

Look for social media to take a big leap forward in 2011 as nonprofits begin integrating the actions and data into their other relationship-management efforts.

Social constituent relationship management is going to become the big buzzword at conferences, on blogs and with experts in the industry.

Counting followers will change into measuring constituent activity. Listening dashboards will shift to focused conversations with supporters.

Nonprofits are going to begin integrating their social-media efforts into their use of other constituent relationship building channels. It’s time for social media to grow up and 2011 should be the year this happens.

Mobile goes mainstream

While mobile messaging and content are very mature in other parts of the world, it has been slow to take hold in the United States.

But that changed during the Haiti earthquake in 2010 when mobile giving raised a tremendous amount of money for the relief efforts.

This event caused nonprofits to take a serious look at mobile – some for the right reasons and some for all the wrong reasons too. Using mobile effectively is so much more than just text-to-give.

This communication channel is going to take the next big leap in 2011. This means that the use of mobile for messaging, content delivery and putting tools in the hands of supporters will continue to accelerate.

Expect more questions than answers about mobile and the usual parade of experts.

Remember that it’s just another channel for communication with some special abilities that need to be part of an overall strategy to be effective.

Will there be other surprises and upstarts in 2011? Past history tells us that’s almost guaranteed. And some positive signs and good news are always welcome predictions.

Steve MacLaughlin is the director of Internet Solutions at Blackbaud.

Reprinted with permission of Philanthropy Journal.