Staying Ahead of the Curve: Top Nonprofit Trends to Look for in 2020


Written by Katica Barbul, Capalino

The nonprofit sector is constantly evolving, and organizations need to stay ahead of the curve to survive. As 2020 kicks into full gear, it’s wise to understand the current nonprofit environment in order to plan for your future. We asked Capalino’s nonprofit experts to share their insight on what trends will emerge this year. Here’s what is on the horizon for 2020.

Prepare for the Election Effect

2020 is a momentous election year in our country. As a result, you can anticipate extensive media coverage on political candidates, (as well as the current impeachment proceedings) which means nonprofits will be competing for the remaining scraps of attention and resources at the national level. Therefore, it is imperative to expand your marketing efforts and create a presence at the local level. Use this as an opportunity to become a pundit on your community’s issues and make your constituents passionate about your organization’s mission.

Although this can be a period of intense media frenzy, elections are also a period of tremendous philanthropy. For example, in 2016 we witnessed an outpour of donations and volunteers participating in civil rights, social action, and advocacy programs. People who became donors during this period had a much greater propensity to become recurring donors than those who invested during any other time. Capitalize on these sentiments and your nonprofit will flourish.

Use Technology to Increase Efficiency

In the age of social media, nonprofits know it is crucial to embrace technology and use it as a means to attract a younger, socially responsible demographic. We are increasingly seeing that video engagement and livestreaming are the most effective marketing strategies because they are very interactive and help the audience retain more information. For example, Children’s Miracle Network Hospital used livestreaming to fuel their fundraising campaign and generated $13.5 million. These tools allow nonprofits to personalize their marketing efforts and narrate the importance of their organization. The more connected people feel to your organization, the greater chance it has for success.

Anticipate a Decrease in Government Funding

In 2020, we can anticipate additional budget cuts to social programs. New York State has already announced there is a $6.1 billion budget deficit and is planning a 1 percent rate cut for the Medicaid program that will reduce payments by hundreds of millions of dollars. This means nonprofits will be expected to respond to an increasing demand with less resources. Nonprofits must be prepared to fill this gap with other resources, or make some very difficult decisions regarding service provision.

Create the Optimal Work Environment

Studies reveal a “flexible work environment” is the most desired workplace quality, even more than salary. Paid time off and paid family leave are among the highest ranked employee benefits. It is essential to ensure your employees are happy and committed to your organization. This only inspires them to invest more in your organization. Consider your policies and your organization’s overall work-life balance and wellness initiatives to ensure you’re retaining talent.

Incentivize Donors

Giving USA’s 2019 report explained there was a decline in general and mid-level donors due to an increased standard of deduction in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This legislation curtailed the tax benefits people received through annual charity donations, which created less incentive to donate. Consequently, nonprofits should consider a two-step approach: creating their own, transparent DAFs and building loyalty with their current donors.

Donors truly are the lifeblood of nonprofits and organizations should strive to make interactions more personal and less transactional. Research suggests creating membership programs that offer tangible rewards to members, such as apparel and VIP access to events can drastically boost donor engagement. In 2018, nonprofits attributed offering this type of exclusive deals increased total online revenue by 77%.

Capalino provides an array of strategic advisory services to help nonprofits identify opportunities, navigate challenges, build capacity and mitigate risks. To learn more, contact Executive Vice President Jeanne Mullgrav at or 212.616.5832.

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