- Nonprofits will use advances in technology to engage donors face to face and at every giving level.
- Transitional organizations focused on solving problems and then disbanding will increasingly challenge "permanent" nonprofits.
- Big data will become ubiquitous, and easier to manage and understand.
- Nonprofits will become proactive, rather than reactive, to opportunistic fundraising campaigns.
He's right about his two tech points (#1 and #3): of course nonprofits will use tech in more and better ways to engage donors, and certainly nonprofits (at least the bigger ones) will learn easier ways to manage and understand big data. Now, I'm not so sure about how soon big data will become ubiquitous, but anyway...
So I disagree with points 2 and 4. To be fair, it's a blog post, not a white paper, but I don't read any supportive evidence or rationale for either. The first doesn't seem to have real legs to become a trend, and the second isn't a new trend at all.
He writes in #2 that because post-boomers "donate on perceived needs, not because they have a history with an organization," this naturally implies that they're more motivated to see results, and therefore "we will see more nonprofits formed for brief, 3-5 year stints." But instead of citing some 'retail' examples, he cites the two of the most prominent examples of foundations doing this: Atlantic Philanthropies and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Perhaps I'm just slow, but I don't see how donors' motivation to see more results (especially by post-boomers) leads to a trend of nonprofits being founded for 3-5 year life cycles. Besides, wouldn't the philanthropic challenge have to be very narrow in scope if a short-term nonprofit were to resolve it successfully? That's not a bad thing, of course -- plenty of nonprofits and other social change agents have focused on (usually incremental) achievable change -- but they've done so within the context of a broader agenda. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that even carefully limited change agendas could be accomplished in 5 years, let alone 3, if they're meant to have a permanent impact.
Moving on, in #4 he says that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and the high-volume response to the 2012 earthquake in Haiti "...teach us that donors are willing to respond to social needs even if the nonprofits that benefited never anticipated or even solicited their support." I don't see how this is anything new.
People have responded to causes that touched their hearts since well before the rise of the modern nonprofit sector, and gone well beyond 'just' giving money. He notes that ALS has defined viral fundraising -- true enough, although again, you could argue that 'viral' is merely a modern post-Internet term that describes an ancient societal dynamic -- ideas and causes have been taking the world by storm, spreading like wildfire, or whatever, since the beginning. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- or more accurately -- the civil rights movement, went viral before the Internet existed -- for that matter, so did Martin Luther's 95 Theses -- and these inspired movements, not just contributions.
I don't think a donor, if pushed to think things through, would ever say the existence of their favorite nonprofit is more important than the cause the donor cares about. Indeed, it's part of the logic of Fundraising 101: the story is not about the nonprofit, it's about how the donor, through his/her gift, can be a hero in the storied struggle (sorry, couldn't resist!). So when the cause doesn't have institutional support, the community/market will create one or find one that it can persuade to fill in..
In the case of ALS, the planners of the Ice Bucket Challenge had no idea that dousing VIPs would become an Internet sensation (especially when the VIPs doused each other), but I doubt this good fortune would have occurred if ALS hadn't been a cause that most Americans know something about and embrace as 'worthy' -- and if the ALS Association itself didn't have an extensive national presence which made it possible to schedule many repeated performances at the speed of the Internet.
The connection between the surprising popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge and "future crises, large or small..." that nonprofits can take advantage of as "catalytic moments when they can make real progress," seems tenuous at best. But let's assume Swindoll means that nonprofits should plan and look for surprise events, whether community crisis or marketing opportunity. But isn't taking advantage of "newsworthy events that connect with their cause and mission," what he calls "opportunistic fundraising," something that good nonprofits have always done?
Swindoll doesn't strengthen his case by citing World Vision as an exemplar. From what I could see on their website, disaster relief is a standard part of its services, so it should be prepared to accelerate its fundraising when there's a disaster -- just like Doctors Without Borders or any similar organization would. He should find a nonprofit in a field that doesn't experience that particular dynamic but that still has the foresight to prepare a contingency plan to marshal appropriate resources when a similar event presents itself.
Every manager, for-profit or nonprofit, should always be prepared for surprises that force them to gear up. What is true about Swindoll's 4th point is that they should know that they've got to respond at Internet speed. In 2015, that's nothing new.