skip to Main Content
Future-proofing Your Nonprofit

Why You Need to Future-Proof Your Mission-Driven Organization


We live in an age of the polycrisis, a phrase that aptly describes our current situation of persistent disruptions and challenges. Global conflicts, climate change, economic and financial uncertainty, political instability, and the aftereffects of the pandemic are impacting nonprofit and mission-driven organizations, their volunteers, beneficiaries, donors and business partners. When multiple crises occur at the same time, they can overwhelm your organization’s ability to cope.

Nonprofit and volunteer boards can fortify their organizations to withstand this perfect storm with future-proofing. Don’t worry – future-proofing does not require a crystal ball. You don’t need to predict the next challenge or disruption on the horizon. Instead, future-proofing is a way for the board to foster flexibility to constantly adapt to emerging challenges, evolving community needs, and shifting donor and volunteer expectations.

This flexibility and adaptability will boost your organization’s ability to not only weather future crises, but also thrive and grow, taking advantage of new processes, partnerships, and community connections.

The Key Elements of Future-Proofing

The pandemic catalyzed many changes in the way we function as a society. Remote work, digital meetings, and online classes were less common pre-pandemic, but are now fixtures in our lives. Organizations that were most successful during the pandemic were the ones that were able to adapt quickly to new ways of communicating, working, learning, and meeting.

Adaptability is the focus of future-proofing, and it doesn’t happen by accident. It goes beyond planning for a specific crisis. It requires the organization to gather updated and targeted data so that it can understand and analyze its ability to meet its current mission and role, as well as where it wants to go in the future.

Here are the factors boards members should consider in their future-proofing efforts:

Evolving Needs

Your organization’s long-term success is based on how well it can evolve over time to address changing needs. Boards should look at how their strategies, programs, and initiatives can remain relevant and effective. This also ensures that the organization is positioned for long-term success, allowing it to continue making a meaningful impact.

Donor and Community Expectations

Donors, vendors, and volunteers increasingly expect transparency, accountability, and results from nonprofits and mission-driven organizations. Fostering a deep understanding of what your stakeholders need and want from your organization is an element of future-proofing. When you deliver on expectations, you build and maintain bonds that won’t be easily severed as times change and your organization evolves.

Strategic Partnerships

Nonprofits and charities often collaborate with other organizations, government agencies, or businesses to achieve their goals. Strong connections and alliances can buffer and support organizations when times are turbulent. Building and maintaining these partnerships, therefore, are essential to future-proofing efforts.

Risk mitigation

Yes, I did say future-proofing wouldn’t require foretelling the future. But you do need scan for and mitigate vulnerabilities that could disrupt your organization’s operations. Shoring up known weaknesses can increase the organization’s viability when facing as unexpected challenges, such as economic downturns, natural disasters or pandemics.

Strategic Growth Planning

Future-proofing allows boards to plan for strategic growth and expansion, whether it’s expanding services to new communities, increasing advocacy efforts, or collaborating with other organizations. Strategic planning by the board enables your organization to future-proof itself and reach those new goals.

Understanding Regulatory Requirements and Changes

The regulatory environment governing nonprofits changes rapidly. Boards seeking to future-proof their organization must stay on top of changes and ensure that they comply with legal requirements and regulations. Being out of compliance puts the organization at risk of lawsuits and fines. It also can harm the organization’s reputation among potential donors, volunteers, and the public.

Leadership Succession Planning

Futureproof the board by identifying and developing future leaders within the organization.  Succession planning ensures that future leaders of the organization are well-suited and prepared for their leadership role in the organization. Leadership stability puts the organization in a strong position to weather unforeseen changes and challenges.

Technology and digital transformation

Many mission-driven organizations underwent digital transformation during the pandemic, integrating digital technology into operational areas including strategy, marketing and client service.

As organizations integrate technology into all areas of business, the process facilitates future-proofing. Technology can support planning, forecasting, communicating, and understanding the needs of the community you serve and the needs of donors, vendors, and corporate partners. Polling, surveys, and other forms of digital communications that foster two-way conversations are tools to maintain and grow relationships between you and your community and stakeholders.

Future-proofing requires that organizations build and strengthen their digital and technological capacity to ensure they can take advantage of opportunities in the future.

Tips for getting started

Encourage innovative and creative thinking among your staff. Your staff no doubt has already shown adaptability and resilience during and after the pandemic. Acknowledge that flexibility and creativity that arose out of the crisis. Build on those qualities by encouraging staff to continue their creative and innovative thinking to push the organization forward toward its goals.

  • Go beyond crisis management. Crisis management is an essential part of future-proofing, but it shouldn’t stop there. Having the ability to mitigate risk is important, but future-proofing encourages the board to look at the organization holistically and visualize how it will be successful in the future.
  • Gather key data. Gathering, recording, and analyzing information is essential to future-proofing efforts. A robust platform to store and recall analysis, projections, financial statements, donor and volunteer feedback and other information will be crucial.
  • Build strong relationships. Relationships are the foundation of future-proofing your organization. A mission-driven organization thrives on the passion and commitment of its people – staff, members, donors, and beneficiaries. It also needs connections to other organizations entities in its space. The relationships will help carry the organization into the future.

Next steps

Ready to lead your organization into the future? Future-proofing can help you anticipate, adapt to, and thrive in a dynamic and uncertain environment. It can ensure that the organization will be around for many years, evolving and changing as it grows. You’ll need a trusted technology partner to help you in this endeavor.

BoardEffect is designed with the unique needs of volunteer boards in mind. Our nonprofit board management software streamlines board processes, enhances and delivers secure communication, helping you to become an efficient and effective board as you discuss, tackle, and take action on future-proofing for your organization.

Kathleen Vail

Kathleen Vail is a writer and editor in Northern Virginia. She has been covering education and board governance issues at the local and national level for more than 30 years.

Back To Top
PHP Code Snippets Powered By :