Posted on December 30, 2009
2010: Preview of the Year Ahead
PND -- 2009: Preview of the Year Ahead
If the headlines in 2009 were dominated by a single story, namely the near-death and revival of the economy, 2010 is likely to see a renewed focus on efforts to meet the challenges — and leverage the opportunities — posed by globalization and accelerating technological change.
Not that the economy, and certainly not the nonprofit economy, is out of the woods. In October, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's annual Philanthropy 400 survey found that large charities remain gloomy about their fundraising prospects, while the results of a recent survey by the Foundation Center suggest that foundation giving will fall further in 2010 after a 10 percent decline in 2009. The same survey suggests that most funders believe that nonprofits were not sufficiently prepared to weather a severe economic downturn and that the crisis is likely to take a toll on smaller, weaker organizations, leading to more collaborations and an emphasis on greater transparency and accountability within the sector. We shall see.
If the economy does recover and the federal government is able to stop and begin to reverse the alarming deterioration in its finances, nonprofits are certain to step up the pressure on the White House for more assistance and leadership on a range of issues, from tax and regulatory policy, to the environment, to encouraging public-private partnerships that truly support social innovation. With meaningful (if flawed) healthcare reform a near-certainty, attention will shift to the education arena, where hundreds of billions of dollars spent over decades have done little to close the educational achievement gaps between low-income students and their more affluent peers, between white students and students of color, and between the United States and other high-performing nations.
Growing income disparities across regions and different socioeconomic strata are also likely to come to the fore — especially if the economy slows or falls back into recession. As Boston Foundation president and CEO Paul S. Grogan put it earlier this fall, "[G]rowing inequality...threatens our optimistic assumptions about the future. The American Dream, especially for urban families with children, is receding and the question...is: Can we rise to the challenge to heal the growing divide?"
One should expect to see foundations and nonprofits answer Grogan's call — and to employ every tool at their disposal in doing so. The use of social media to drive engagement, awareness, collaboration, and financial support for causes and organizations will accelerate, and it's quite possible we will see the release of a "killer app" during the year that galvanizes new enthusiasm for and investment in the work of the social sector. Of course, a higher profile for the sector will lead to calls for individual nonprofits to demonstrate their impact. There will be pushback, as there always is, against the "quantification" of social change work, but that train has left the station — and 2010 will see more people hopping on board.
As revenue-constrained organizations continue to look for ways to cut costs and create opportunities for their digitally savvy twenty- and thirty-somethings, an uptick in leadership transitions within the sector will be another trend to keep an eye on in 2010. The boomers have had a great ride and done more than anyone could have imagined to turn the nonprofit sector into a positive force for change. As more of them retire over the coming months and years, let's not forget the debt we owe them.
Educational, Economic Achievement Gaps Correlated, Reports Find (4/24/09)
Fundraising Environment for America's Largest Charities Still Challenging, Survey Finds (10/31/09)
Drop in Foundation Giving May Be Steeper Than Anticipated, Report Finds (11/05/09)
Most Nonprofit Retirement Benefit Plans Under 'Stress,' Report Finds (11/10/09)
Online Giving Campaign Raises $14 Million for Minnesota Nonprofits (11/20/09)
Report Details Growing Income Disparities in Greater Boston Area (12/18/09)