On Friday mornings, our team gathers for coffee in the office. We use this time to catch up about the week, share our weekend plans and debrief on client projects. We’re fortunate that a lot of organizations invite us to partner in their work. This year alone, we’ve worked with 38+ nonprofit, private sector and government organizations on a range of projects, including strategic planning, branding, marketing and community voice.
Every December, we make predictions about the social good trends we’ll see in the year ahead. For 2023, we predicted a heavy focus on community voice and impact measurement, strong interest in the work of community-based organizations and increased competition for talent – trends that we are definitely seeing in our work.
But at one recent meeting, I was curious about what we missed in our last predictions. So I asked the team:
What trends are you seeing that we didn’t expect?
Mental Health Matters
Mental health and burnout are certainly not new concepts or feelings. However, for the first time this year, our team is seeing it become a formal part of the discovery phase of our strategic planning work. Organizations of all kinds are seeing burnout among staff as the result of long-term stress and carrying heavier loads while working through greater and greater challenges during the pandemic. Clients in the education, healthcare and human services sectors in particular are dealing with greater numbers of mental health crises and triggering events that put on a strain on their staff and program participants.
Life Without ARPA
APRA funds have been providing much-needed revenue for nonprofits facing increased demand in an unfamiliar landscape. One-time allotments from these funds helped stand up and evolve business models throughout the COVID crisis and after, but new funding and resource development strategies are needed for 2024 and beyond. Nonprofits are keeping an eye on future funding opportunities and how they will keep their programs sustainable for the long haul without large-scale funding initiatives.
Not Your Grandma’s Referral Pipelines
We’ve already written quite a bit about referral pipelines and the reasons why they’re changing (a lack of community trust, the impacts of gentrification and a change in outreach, to name a few). Nonprofits are working hard to ride the wave of constant change by investing in community voice, marketing and outreach.
Rural vs Urban
Historically, nonprofit services have largely been centered in urban areas, with minimal geographical expansion. Continued gentrification and urban growth over the last few years have prompted many nonprofits to expand into neighborhoods outside city centers and into rural counties. These moves allow organizations to meet their constituents where they are and be embedded in the communities they’re trying to serve. More than one nonprofit we’ve recently worked with has had to address the impacts of gentrification and affordable housing in their long-term strategic plans, planning for potential moves as their constituent base relocates to other areas.
All in all, we weren’t far off from last December’s predictions. The words COVID or pandemic didn’t show up at all in our original 2023 predictions (wishful thinking, perhaps) but what we did get right is that all roads lead towards intentionality: a focus on staff and constituent wellbeing, community embeddedness and a reevaluation of life and work in a post-pandemic world are concepts worth spending some time and resources on.