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The eight not-for-profit industry trends your organization needs to know about

Posted by  Rob Gethen Smith

Not-for-profits are being challenged in all directions, from diversifying and generating new funding options, to meeting increasing demands for accountability and donors’ digital expectations. These are eight industry trends your organization needs to know about if you want to survive – and thrive – in the current climate.

The heat is being turned up on the not-for-profit (NFP) sector. Organizations are fighting battles on all fronts: raising more money, streamlining operations, recruiting new donors, and making sure every dollar donated is demonstrably used to good effect.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom; new opportunities to improve efficiency and increase productivity are being generated by cutting-edge administrative technologies like enterprise resource planning (ERP). And technological innovations are helping NFP organizations meet the industry trends challenging their operations head-on.

What are these trends, and how can modern solutions help you deliver more impact for your cause? Let’s take a closer look…

1. Competition’s creating commercialism

Global political and economic instability and changing donor demographics and expectations are impacting traditional support streams for NFP organizations. As a result, many organizations are commercializing their business models to more readily generate vital resources that need to be effectively managed.

2. Crises are increasingly complex

The need for disaster relief and crisis support is being intensified by worsening climate change, mass migration and armed conflict – and there’s no sign of the world getting any less complex. Organizations need to respond quickly and with increased agility to provide disaster relief in more challenging situations.

3. International operations are being decentralized

Multinational NFP organizations continue to decentralize their programs and activities in response to demands from donors and streamlining program delivery. Therefore, it’s critical that organizations have the systems to support strong global oversight and decision-making.

4. Brand loyalty is broken – unless the experience is A+

Digitally savvy supporters now expect a commercial-grade experience and aren’t afraid to take their donations elsewhere if they don’t have a good customer experience with an organization. Organizations need to live up to these high expectations from the outset, delivering a digitally enabled donor experience that makes continued support easy.

5. The red tape’s now tighter

Legislation and regulations are stricter than ever for NFPs, which is good for the sector, but creates extra demand and, ultimately, overheads. Organizations need to be compliant everywhere – from data management and cyber security to employee safeguarding and fundraising ethics.

6. It’s essential to make an impact

Given lower levels of traditional donor loyalty and increased demands for transparency, not-for-profits need to show donors that their support is making a difference. Demonstrating accountability is critical, while dynamic reporting is needed to prove the positive impact of donations.

7. Productivity is being compromised by the back office

Increased operational complexities mean many NFP teams endlessly get tied up in back-office tasks. Putting an organization-wide digital system in place to automate administration is critical if organizations want to become more productive.

8. Digital transformation is overdue

Despite the clear need for streamlined operations, the NFP sector as a whole is yet to undergo digital transformation. Stronger technical leadership and integrated, business-wide systems will enable organizations to make progress in a challenging climate.

Around 60 percent of productivity boosting opportunities in the next decade will be driven by digital technology. The sooner your organization embraces ERP tools, the quicker you’ll realize the benefits.

In fact, modern ERP solutions present a momentous opportunity for not-for-profit organizations to break through substantial barriers and achieve digital transformation.

To read about the biggest industry trends in more depth and learn how to the respond to them with the right technology, download the industry brochure: A MOMENTOUS OPPORTUNITY IN THE NOT-FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY — why the NFP industry has a golden opportunity and how the leaders are capitalizing on it.


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Rob Gethen Smith

Rob is a digital technology and business change specialist having worked in the NfP sector for the last 20 years. Prior to Unit4, he was a partner at charity and membership specialists, Adapta Consulting, where he advised charities and non-profits on the effective use of information systems. He is also a trustee for the international animal welfare charity SPANA. Rob has worked as CIO at Anthony Nolan, Southbank Centre, Tate and Macmillan Cancer Support, and as Customer Engagement Director at Blackbaud, developing business and technology strategies and leading change initiatives.

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