Friday, August 31, 2007

Predicting the Future of Fundraising: We're On Our Way, But Who's At the Helm?

Gayle Roberts, author of the Fundraising for Nonprofits blog, kindly invited me to write this post for her September 2007 Giving Carnival . If you blog about fundraising, Gayle invites you to also post using The Future of Fundraising as the topic. You must submit your post to her, at gayle[at]gayleroberts[dot]com, by September 4th. The details are available at:

I am going to follow her suggested outline...

I see a Democrat replacing the current White House administration. As the Dems are now the party of responsible budgetary management; ten years from now, I predict that the economy will be stable and stronger. So, American donations will continue to grow from year to year, annually, as it used to in the United States, prior to 9/11. Public needs programs, that the current federal government has cut from budgets, will be re-infused with attention and tax dollars. Social Security, health care, and public education are among the top concerns in the United States, today, besides the economy. If we want public programs we have to pay for them. With these public programs and our infrastructure fracturing from age, the United States will have to assess itself in a fundamental way; are we going to fund public needs in this country. If we are; how will we dedicate appropriate consistent funding, from presidential administration to presidential administration, guaranteeing Americans' continued safety, best quality of life, and health?

This dialogue may create permanent dedicated public funding. Even if this doesn't happen, public foundations and other grant donors will continue to strengthen the American 501(c)... organizations, as they already are, by providing partnerships and donations that the government doesn't. Grant donors, for example, bolster government giving by uniquely supporting seed money, pilot programs, and most importantly, the non profit sector's strength; innovation. For further discussion on this point, please see my post about The Rockefeller Foundation's President, Judith Rodin at Grant Writers, Get an Inside Peak at Where Our Foundation Donors' Heads Are

We non profit organizations and our donors are beginning to learn best practices. In ten years, donors will be seen as partners and investors in our non profit mission goals. Impact, performance, and track record will be everything, so transparency will have increased on both the non profit and donor sides. In ten years I hope we're more accepting of the effective methods of setting short term goals, setting measurable outcomes, checking progress as the program occurs, making appropriate adjustments if needed, and ultimately changing the root causes of our modern day problems that non profits (and their donor partners) want to solve.

You and I know that the Internet has increased the ability for those in need and for those who work to effect change to communicate. What's more is donors can speak to one another and non profit organizations can easily partner and form alliances in their programs, no matter where they are each based. But, non profits must move into the technology sector and keep up with it for this to happen. Funding is often the excuse why a given office isn't online, but many computers, networks, software packages, etc. ARE available at drastically lower or no cost to non profits. I've utilized 'Web 2.0', blogging about grant writing for years. Two years ago, though, I moved to a state where they weren't thinking about Web 2.0 as a business advantage, yet. I belong to a professional non profit list serve, here in Oregon, that I noticed edited out my blog web address in my business contact information-signature, if I sent an email to the list serve! Finally, after enough times experiencing this censorship, I emailed the webmaster explaining that blogs are considered a legitimate means of business contact, and in fact major non profit professional affiliations and publications (i.e. The Foundation Center) encourage non profits to use blogs to reach their constituency. After, my posts were posted in full, uncensored. I followed up with a 'thank you', and a link to a recent article that The Foundation Center published encouraging the very same technology. There is a learning curve, which is fine.

Economic changes such as globalization will help grow the third world's middle class, but may separate the American middle class from the American wealthy even more. If NAFTA, WTO, and other globalization treaties that the United States is involved with do not redefine and address protecting American jobs, markets, and imports (for American consumers' safety), globalization's effect on the American middle class may become an issue for grantmakers and non profits to address.

Ben Casselman demonstrated why social entrepreneurism is not effective fundraising. In ten years social entrepreneurism will either be revamped or gone. In large part, no organization (non or for profit) can operate two businesses (a non profit office and say, a store) with one staff or one work day. See my post: As Casselman Points Out; Social Enterprise Fundraising is Not All Kittens, Chocolates, or Roses

Congress wants to be able to better see what American 501(c)... non profit organizations are doing (or not doing). In 2009, the IRS will require that the American non profits that raise $25,000 or more, from the 2008 fiscal year on, fill out a new IRS tax form 990. The hope is that the government will get better reporting on not just fiscal operations, but the Congress wants to see what percentage of donations received is going towards the non profit's programs. See my post, How Often Do You Hear This?! IRS Wants Your Input On Your New Required Tax Document! New IRS Tax Form 990 Wants Your Two Cents! Our donors, let alone Congress, are tired of giving only to learn of scandals such as the one that has, in recent years, rocked The Smithsonian Institute. See my post, Transparency; Four Letter Word or Wave of the Future?

Many donor discussions, and even public policy discussions, center today around the idea that the world now lacks leaders. Per chance John Whitehead, the man famous for multiplying Goldman Sachs' financials; and Bill George, former Chair and CEO of Medtronic were on "Charlie Rose" (PBS) on August 27, 2007 discussing this very issue. Whitehead described today's leader as needing to be someone who can bring people to a certain value and get them to agree to work towards goals to obtain that value. He isn't sure where these leaders are, world round, anymore. In the non profit sector, Congressional oversight is not leadership. Donors' requiring mission-success and transparency are help create sector goals; but again they are not leaders. Executive directors and boards are traditionally the non profit leadership, but being one or the other of these does not endow the person with natural leadership abilities. Perhaps right now we don't have any clear leadership among us? I think leadership occurs organically, in organizations, as someone demonstrates their abilities to give control over to others, to be open, to work with people, to rise to difficult occasions, to really rally people, and to land important successes. Arguably the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a leader among donors, programs, and successes. But that is an organization. Are today's philanthropic or non profit/NGO leaders people such as Bono; Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the man who successfully implemented the microcredit program in India; Lou Dobbs; and Jon Stewart? I'll take my leaders where I can get them, but with the exception of Yunus, above, they're all famous for other reasons. I think we're in a leader drought. The impact is that the religious right has gained ground, but are they really our leaders today? Don't they have their own politics, scandals, and agendas? Do they work well with others who are different from them? I think that they choose to judge and condemn others who are different, despite that being the job of 'someone' (insert Deity of choice, here) bigger than any of us. Non profit sector leadership is up for grabs, people.

Sorry to end on a sour note, but maybe this concern will kick our collective non profit asses?

1 comment:

Gayle said...

Arlene, thank you for such a through and thoughtful response. So glad to have you dancing in the Giving Carnival with us this month!