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Capitol Communicator has a report that PSA campaigns deliver over a 150 times return in free ad time for every dollar spent getting stations to air your PSA.

What the crystal ball says about nonprofit trends

by | May 10, 2024

Everyone wants to get an early look, be it fashion trends, hot new shows, up and coming sports teams, or current events before they even become current. The same is true for nonprofit trends. The trick to managing a charitable organization to be ahead of the curve, to be the person who sees things coming and is ready for them. That’s not easy. As Yogi Berra once said,  “Predictions are hard, especially when they’re about the future.” 

You can become the Nonprofit Prophet for your organization. That doesn’t happen by moving to a mountain top and eating only honeycomb. It comes from looking at change as something good, immersing yourself in the world of new ideas, and connecting what you see with your mission and what is important to you. 

Six Nonprofit Trends to Plan For

You might not have a crystal ball, but you can prepare for the future by looking for nonprofit trends that are all around you. Here is a starter kit of trends to think about. 

  1. Lean Donation Days May Be Coming to an End

According to the Philanthropy Outlook 2024 and 2025, giving may increase by about 4% this year and nearly another 4% next year. That’s higher than the current 10-year average rate of growth, an exciting turnaround after several years of dropping donation rates. 

Around 63% of donations are expected to come from individuals and households. One survey found that 78% of donors plan to contribute more money and goods to nonprofits this year. 

Once again, making the most of this opportunity starts with nonprofit marketing. Consider running a national PSA to build awareness for your cause and reaching out to foundations that that have a history of supporting nonprofits like yours.

  1. The Great Wealth Transfer Starts Now

The advice to “follow the money” is as true today as when Ben Bradlee gave it to two young reporters at The Washington Post. They used it to break the famous Watergate case. You can use it to find the huge pool of donations waiting to be given to charities across the country. 

The biggest generational transfer of wealth in history is starting right now. As Baby Boomers age, they’re considering how they can pass on their wealth. Financial experts call this The Great Wealth Transfer. This matters for nonprofits because 40% of people older than age 50 consider giving legacy gifts. The reason many of them don’t is simple: “no one asked me” 

These potential donors have several options for giving including: mandatory retirement distributions from a 401k, donor advised funds that now hold more than $225 billion in assets for charitable giving, and simple bequests. 

Nonprofit organizations can develop marketing campaigns that educate the public about these options. They can also connect directly with DAF administrators and advisors, who can pass the message on to their clients.

  1. Volunteer Numbers Are Down 

Some have blamed the pandemic for a decline in volunteers. In reality, this trend started much earlier. It’s coming to a head this year as many people struggle to make ends meet. Modern life may leave people feeling like they need to work more, and thus have less time and energy for volunteering. 

Organizations struggling to meet high demand with fewer volunteers have a two-fold challenge. They need to keep the volunteers they have, and also encourage more people to make the commitment. 

Volunteer retention starts with offering volunteers a meaningful experience. Make the effort to show them the impact of their actions both on your organization and on the people it supports. Some portion of any nonprofit marketing budget should go to volunteer recruitment. Social media ads, public service announcements and community outreach can all help. 

  1. Generative AI and Emerging Technology Could Change Everything

Rising technologies presenting interesting challenges and opportunities. The business world is scrambling to keep up and nonprofits don’t want to be left behind. Several high-profile corporations have created grants and funding opportunities to help nonprofits explore the possibilities. 

For example, the AWS IMAGINE grant is offering nonprofit organizations grants to support non-profit projects that use generative AI, leverage the cloud or use technology to enhance core mission operations.

Google offers impact challenges and advertising grants. Microsoft and Cisco has nonprofit grant programs designed to help nonprofits innovate with technology. If tech could increase your impact, these and similar grants may be worth exploring. 

  1. The Upcoming Presidential Administration Could Impact Charitable Giving

We may not see changes to the tax code in an election year, but the next four years could bring a shift in the tax incentives for charitable giving yet again. 

The last change came in 2017 with a push for simplification that encouraged taxpayers to file using a lump sum deduction rather than itemizing for things like donations. The result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was a decrease in donations to colleges and universities. Small donors in particular gave less than they had in the past, and some stopped donating completely.

As it stands now, many provisions in the TCJA will expire at the end of 2025, including the increased standard deduction. If and how the administration chooses to act may impact charitable giving in 2025 and beyond.

Nonprofits should keep an eye on any changes in tax law and consider how those changes might affect donations. Also, be aware that 2024 political advertising may also affect the performance of PSAs and other advertising campaigns. 

  1. Broadcast Television Wants to Help You Build Awareness …For Free  

Stations and networks are continuing to increase the number of free PSA airings they make available to 501(C)3 organizations. Television stations are airing more PSAs than any time in history. And even though many viewers are spending more time watching streaming television, broadcast TV audiences will remain huge. 

PSA campaigns deliver over a 150 times return in free ad time for every dollar spent getting stations to air your PSA and the value of in-kind donations you receive makes your financial results more attractive to donors and the nonprofit rating agencies.

Anticipating Trends Makes Your Organization Stronger

With many reporting they do not give because no one asked them, nonprofits need build awareness. Awareness matters. If donations are on the rise, you want to stay in front of potential donors. One thing you can do is run a public service announcement campaign using free, donated advertising time to build national awareness about your mission and to tell people how they can help.  That could be your first step in becoming a nonprofit prophet and setting-up your organization for success.

Steve Edelman is President of Connect360, a Capitol communicator sponsor.

About the Author

Steve Edelman

Steve Edelman is a Partner and President of Connect360. He is a leading expert on the measurement, valuation, and financial reporting of Public Service Announcements by not-for-profit organizations. He is a CPA and has an extensive background in the application of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) to earned media valuations and in-kind donations nonprofits receive from broadcasting companies as part of their PSA campaigns. He is the author of numerous articles on the subject and has serves as a resource to nonprofit CFOs, their CPA firms, and professional publications.

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