Looking Ahead: The Top 12 Nonprofit Sector Trends for 2020

Organizational Management February 14, 2020

Tatiana Morand

By Tatiana Morand

How does your nonprofit measure up to the top 2020 nonprofit trends?

No better time than the turn of a decade to evaluate if your nonprofit is aligning with nonprofit industry trends. We took a deep-dive into what experts are saying about emerging nonprofit marketing tactics, the latest technology you should invest in, how to create better opportunities for volunteers, and what nonprofit leadership is evolving to today.

Here are the top 12 nonprofit trends that you should pay attention to this year to make a significant impact in your organization. In this post, we’re sharing trends in these essential areas:

Let’s get to it! 

3 Nonprofit Marketing Trends To Skyrocket Your Communications

1. Personal Communications is Key

The days of blanket messaging to your audience are over. Consumers have become accustomed to a personalized shopping experience, and as a result, expect the same as donors. They want to know what difference they are making, and also want communication that reflects their donation history.

This year, develop marketing and fundraising tactics that are highly personal. That means sharing stories about the people you serve, making opportunities to get to know your donors, and segmenting your email lists by previous interaction and interests (like volunteers, current donors, and lapsed donors).

It may be time to invest in marketing and donor software that captures information like donation history, events attended, and campaigns supported.

Free Best Nonprofit Software

2. Mobile is a Must

Are you most likely to catch up on emails and social media on a desktop computer or your phone? 

We bet your phone!

By the end of last year, over half of website traffic came from mobile devices, and 42% of all emails opened were on mobile or tablets. Mobile continues to be the favored reading environment, and so nonprofits must ensure that their website, blog, and email are mobile friendly. 

Here are five quick tips for ensuring your digital platforms are easy to read and navigate on mobile

  • Make your subject lines short and take advantage of preheader text if you need more text. That way all text will be seen.

  • Make sure the most important information and calls to action are up top, so readers know what you want from them right away. 

  • Your messages should be concise and easy to read. Write short paragraphs broken up with subheadings.

  • Use images sparingly, which often take up too much space on a small screen.

  • Use buttons when sharing links, which are easier to click on mobile.

3. Data-Driven Marketing

In 2020, you must use data to inform your marketing strategies. That means tracking your performance on social media, email, and blog, and taking the time to assess what activities are and aren’t working. Be aware of nonprofit marketing benchmarks, so you’ll know if you measure up. 

We highly recommend spending some time on M+R Benchmarks annual report that sheds light on nonprofit marketing trends and benchmarks. The 2019 study closed with this insight on data-driven marketing:

“In this moment, it can be hard to tell what is solid, and what is a momentary flash. Facebook Fundraisers could become a difference-maker for nonprofits (or… not). Nonprofits may find ways to leverage mobile platforms in ever more powerful ways. And another election is right around the corner, ready to remake the landscape again.

Look at the data now, carefully. Recognize the trends that track to your own experience. Consider the metrics that diverge from your results. Scrutinize each true thing, until it reveals something you can use to grow your program and advance your cause.

That’s what we’re going to do. Dig up some facts, hold them up to the light. And then keep digging.” 

2 Social Media Trends Everyone’s Tweeting About

1. Social Media has Simplified Fundraising

There are pros and cons to fundraising on social media. And yet, one thing is for sure: donating via social media just keeps getting easier. Facebook has waived all donation fees for Facebook fundraisers, and last year, Instagram enabled nonprofits to add a donate button to their profiles. 

If you think your nonprofit would benefit from social media fundraising, read our top 6 tips to make it work for you

2. Communications are Going Private

Mark Zuckerberg made a vital prediction in 2019: "As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today's open platforms."

And he's right. About two-thirds of people say they feel most comfortable sharing on messaging apps. According to Hootsuite, half of the senior marketers polled say they're considering how to make the most of private channels.

So, what does that mean for nonprofits? 

Create spaces where your clients, donors, volunteers, and staff can interact in personal ways. Look into how you can engage your audiences through Facebook Groups, Instagram Threads, LinkedIn Teammates, WhatsApp, and Messenger.

Read More: Fundraising Trends: 6 Modern Strategies to Consider for 2020

2 Technology Trends to Keep You on the Cutting Edge

1. Podcasting is Even More Popular 

Are you thinking of jumping on the podcast trend for your nonprofit?

Over 700,000 podcasts and 29 million podcast episodes were produced in 2019, and the podcast trend is only growing in 2020. The Edison Research Infinite Dial reports that more than half of Americans listen to podcasts, and an estimated 32% listen monthly, a considerable jump from 26% in 2018. Google has even added playable podcasts to search results.

Producing podcasts for your nonprofit is an important way to increase brand awareness, share impactful stories that encourage listeners to act, provide an in-depth discussion on important issues surrounding your cause, and help build thought leadership in your sector. 

If you are considering launching a podcast for your organization, read this TechSoup article as a start.

Or if you’d like to listen to some amazing nonprofit podcasts to get inspired, check out our list. 

2. Donations Made Easy: Text to Donate 

We're living in an increasingly busy and fast-paced world, and the nonprofit sector must continually adapt accordingly. How can we make donating as easy and painless as possible? Patrick Coleman, president and CEO of Give Central predicts that text donations will be a growing trend this year in this recent Forbes article.

"Allowing donors to give via text will be an important growing trend. Presently, we're all smartphone users. The key question to ask will be, can our donors make their gift to us in 30 seconds or less? Will our tools be able to remember them? Can returning donors make a gift in 10 seconds or less? Ease of use and simplicity will be critical. Texting can definitely make that possible," said Patrick Coleman from GiveCentral.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide To Text-To-Give Fundraising

3 Volunteerism Trends to Bring People Together

1. Volunteers Want to Use Their Skills

Volunteer U projects a spike in volunteers seeking to volunteer in areas related to their career or industry. All kinds of professionals want to use their best assets to help nonprofits they care about thrive.

Provide opportunities for a range of specialized volunteer activities, like photography, graphic design, business consulting, marketing strategists, and career coaching. When volunteers feel like they genuinely contributed something valuable to a nonprofit, they will come back again and again.  

 Volunteer Recruitment Checklist

2. Volunteers Expect Appreciation

As personal marketing grows, volunteers are also increasingly seeking to have relationships with the organizations they choose to donate their time to. It may seem like a no-brainer, but volunteer programs should always incorporate volunteer appreciation activities. 

Here are a few informal ideas that you can implement quickly: 

  1. Get name badges for your office volunteers.

  2. Have an annual "Design the Volunteer T-Shirt" contest and use the winning design as that year's T-shirt for special events. Long-term volunteers will be able to wear their T-shirts from past years.

  3. No budget? Ask a local company to pay for having volunteer T-shirts printed in exchange for having their logo tastefully (that means small!) printed on the shirt.

  4. Have a "Volunteer of the Month" and post his or her personal story on your web page to inspire others.

  5. Ask a volunteer if he or she would like to take a 15-minute coffee break with you. Of course, it works best if you buy the coffee!

For more ideas, check out our volunteer appreciation guide. 

3. Corporate Volunteerism is Making a Comeback

Recently, corporations have been more and more challenged to show their values and take a stand on issues like inclusion and environmental preservation. As a result, businesses are seeking ways to improve their image in meaningful ways. 

We will see a rise in corporate volunteer programs and corporate partnerships this year. Take advantage by proactively approaching local or like-minded companies with engaging volunteer opportunities with your nonprofit – you never know who will be looking! 

2 Leadership Trends to Inspire Change

1. It’s (Past) Time for Diversity in Leadership

Over the years, more and more nonprofits are making an effort to have inclusive leadership that represents the range of communities served, and the range of staff that make-up the organization. This trend will continue through 2020.

This year, boards and executive staff should assess the diversity of their leadership. Denise Collazo at Faith in Action put it best when she said:

"Women of color do the lion's share of work in nonprofit organizations, yet they fail to make it to the top leadership and strategy roles. Strategy is often decided by people who don't have their finger on the pulse of the community. When nonprofit leaders center the leadership of younger black and brown women, our credibility goes up and we get better results!" 

2. Transparency is More Important than Ever

Your donors and supporters expect a great deal of transparency from your nonprofit. With the rise of nonprofit rating sites like ImpactMatters, Charity Navigator, and Guidestar, people want to be sure their donations are going into the right hands and making an impact.

Being transparent means consistently reporting where donations are going, and if programs are succeeding. Nonprofits must track donations and program data. If you haven't done so already, 2020 is the year to invest in data-tracking technology to improve donor trust. 

Trends and industry standards should lay the groundwork for all of your nonprofit goals and decisions. Use these trends when planning, and you’ll kick-off this year with a bang.

Do you predict other trends on the horizon for the nonprofit sector? Let us know in the comments! 

Additional Resources:

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!

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