With a new year comes new perspective. The biggest stories of 2014, according to Nonprofit Quarterly (Jan. 5, 2015), illustrate the interconnectedness of the challenges facing the nonprofit sector and their potential for affecting systemic change.
This fascinating story — or collection of stories, as the case might be – offers new insight on the nonprofit universe, as a whole, that we all inevitably share.
Among the especially resonate highlights are:
- Technology — Not only has it changed nonprofit operations, it has revolutionized stakeholders’ relationships with organizations and altered (even fueled) entire social justice movements. As social media replaces some individuals and organizations in traditional leadership roles, even governance practices are evolving to reflect stakeholder expectations.
- State/local government — as evidence of social change increases at state and local levels, so too does responsibility for nonprofit accountability.
- Racial injustice and wage inequity – both are gaining heightened attention across political aisles and in the nonprofit trenches, as the sector grapples with examples of its own exclusive practices even while advocating against them.
- Advocacy and actualization — nonprofits play critical roles in “advocating for social justice,” even when little legislative change is possible, and in implementing sweeping change, like the Affordable Care Act.
- Philanthropy – funding does more than support the sector. New partnerships between government and philanthropic organizations prove very effective in serving – even saving – their communities. Also, the influential gifts of the wealthy highlight the gap between organizations that attract such funds and those that do not.
- External impact — changes in market need are leading to internal restructuring, particularly in certain market segments (ie. healthcare and the arts).
- Social enterprise shift – part of the movement is redirecting attention from the individual to the community and from the dramatic resolution of a specific problem to incremental improvement of the circumstances.
Beyond the critical nature of each NPQ story referenced is the power of the interconnectedness among them. If we simply use governance as a lens, we can appreciate the impact technology AND increasing social activism AND racial inclusion AND fair wages AND philanthropy AND market changes are having not only on nonprofits, but on the ways their boards must steward them. It means changes in board-level recruiting, operations, outreach (in communicating with stakeholders), engagement, and even focus as the strategic and generative modes of governance become increasingly important to nonprofit sustainability.