In my last post I outlined some of the exciting developments facing the sector.
The confluence of these issues presents an exciting if unknown future: how the generational shift, new technologies, the desire to build community across difference, the increasing permeability of the very concept of “nonprofit,” and the redefinition of the workplace will combine to transform the nonprofit sector.
I believe the next decade will bring new leaders, new technologies, new structures and new partnerships.
It will bring new, well-capitalized competitors, and some may be for-profit companies that crossover into the sector of traditional nonprofit work. It will also bring new donor demands for accountability and impact if nonprofits are to maintain their already-tenuous hold on identity as a sector and not just become under-capitalized competitors in an increasingly crowded and sector-blind blended economy.
One key to success in this environment will be a collective rethinking of what it means to be an organization, what we mean by “workplace,” and what it means to both compete and partner across many permeable boundaries.
This transformation will not be optional.
Just as the days have largely passed when nonprofits were viewed as “charities” or volunteer auxiliaries led by do-gooders, so too will the current conceptualization of nonprofits as “institutions” and perhaps even as “organizations” give way.
Many nonprofits will instead become known as their brands and will operate through networks.
Even those that maintain institutional cohesion will be organized to a far greater degree around shifting coalitions, online activism, a mobile workforce or perhaps even volunteers whose day jobs are in completely unrelated fields.
In this changing world the current modes which foundations use to advance their missions, and the traditional approaches used by capacity builders, will fall far short.