Once upon a time, I wore all the hats. Before my team grew in size, if some task required skills beyond our expertise, I dug in, googled my way to a quasi-confident level of knowledge, did it myself, and hoped for good results. Not, mind you, because I wanted to, but because I didn’t see any other choice.
Topics: Case Study
In 2018, nonprofit rockstars helped their communities navigate hurricanes, scandal, and violence. “Justice” was declared the word of the year, according to Merriam-Webster, and a lot of good things happened, too. As we always do, we went into the fray, built up our collective muscles for change-making, and led the charge to make the world a way better place because we know it can be. In 2019, we’ll see some of the foundations we’ve been building sprout results and spark movement. Here are 5 trends we predict will impact our impact-makers in 2019:
1. More people will see the awesome power of nonprofits and step up to serve.
At the time of writing this article, the United States government is in Day 29 of a partial shutdown, the longest in the nation’s history (Update: 2019 government shutdown lasted a total of 35 days). Public faith in government is at a historic low, and people are generally uncertain what the future will hold -- who will take care of peoples’ critical needs, security, and our environment?
We will, of course. We, meaning the American people. At our best, it’s what we do: We step up, in one form or another -- whether that means taking on challenging but fulfilling careers in the nonprofit sector or getting up early with your kids to go pick up litter on the trail because park staff were sent home during the shutdown.
Lily Tomlin famously said, “I always wondered why somebody doesn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.” People are starting to realize they are somebody, too. And if they’re smart, nonprofits can funnel this energy into greatness.
What this means for Nonprofit Marketing, Volunteer, and Development Pros:I know. Nonprofits have been coming to the rescue, filling gaps in the market since the dawn of our existence. But now is the time for those critical efforts to be seen. Really seen. So get ready to capitalize on your community’s can-do spirit! Offer unique opportunities to get involved that give people a sense of power. If you work for an organization serving a cause impacted by the shutdown or its aftermath, rally a group of volunteers (like these awesome folks) and give them the chance to work out their frustrations with the current situation through service. Then, send out a press release and post on social media to showcase your efforts and use the interest in the stories of the shutdown to get a light shining on your amazing work. When you empower people and show them they have the capacity to control what happens here, they’ll become your greatest allies, volunteers, and donors.
Just out of high school, I still hadn’t shaken my teenage awkwardness and lack of confidence. Though a fire to change the world burned bright within, it burned aimlessly. I was unsure how or where to direct this passion and energy until I started volunteering. I cooked meals for the families of chronically ill children, built habitats for tigers, and served at soup kitchens. But throughout these experiences I was also growing. I learned to communicate my passion with clarity, practiced public speaking, and gained skills in marketing, fundraising, and more.
These experiences also taught me about the needs of my community and, within a few years, I launched my own nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire others to serve their community and help all of the wonderful causes I’d come to know and love.
I volunteered as the organization’s President and de facto Director for eight years and throughout that entire time, I knew the cause was depending on me. But I needed to make a living so I could pay my bills, and I so worked a number of jobs while running the organization on the side, from data entry, to quality control for clinical studies, to bartender. Everyone else in the organization was in the same position; we all volunteered, working extraordinarily hard out of love for the cause, but most couldn’t put in more than ten or so hours per week to progress it.
The organization stagnated. We were never able to serve more than a small handful of people or causes at a time, though the need was still great and demand for our help was growing. I knew we were going to have to invest more in building capacity as an organization if we were going to be able to meet this need, so I rallied our board of directors and we developed a business plan, bit the bullet, and hired our first paid team member.
Perhaps not obviously so, the nonprofit and freelance economies are interconnected. When policies are enacted that mean less government support for nonprofit organizations, that means the pressure on these organizations to fill gaps in human services, such as providing support for education, health, and to fight poverty increases. And that means already strained nonprofits need a larger workforce to help address these big needs — leading to half of surveyed nonprofits reporting plans to increase their staff size in 2017. At the same time, more than half of all employers across the sectors are seeking contract workers.
Many folks are currently gravitating towards meaningful work in the nonprofit sector, and yet many others are drawn to the flexibility and creative challenges of a freelancing lifestyle. Throw the two together, and you get a subculture of employees itching to do good through their work without wanting to sacrifice the freedom freelancing might afford them.
As the Nonprofit sector’s workplace style changes, those looking to freelance in the sector will feel it, too. Here are a few ways how:
#1: Greater demand for workers means more salary transparency
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ― Maya Angelou
The best fundraisers are authentic friends. They genuinely care about the wellbeing of their donors, understand their needs and what drives them and, when it’s time to “make the ask”, aren’t trying to pitch or sell. Rather, they are giving their donors a gift -- the gift of an opportunity to find meaning, purpose, and connection.
Nearly 15 years ago, I helped launch a nonprofit organization with zero dollars in our bank account and a handful of volunteers. Since then, we’ve learned and grown (and laughed, and cried), overcoming roadblocks in funding and marketing and volunteer management and more. We owe our growth and triumph over those challenges to a number of factors, but the most important one is, of course, the people we’ve worked with. Throughout my work, our organization has had a need for a variety of types of talent. We work with volunteers, employ hourly and salaried staff, and hire contractors and freelancers. From the freelance world, I’ve worked with freelance graphic designers, board development consultants, and web developers, each offering a degree of flexibility, the agility that only working for one’s self can bring, and great results.