12 predictions for nonprofit and philanthropy for 2023

[A hand holding up a shiny crystal ball. Or possibly a large frozen soap bubble. There are interesting patterns that look like ice crystals on it. Image by Uki_71 on Pixabay]

Hi everyone! I hope the new year is treating you well. Since it is a brand new year, I thought I would use my Pisces power to predict what’s in store for our sector over the coming months. As everyone knows, we Pisces are attuned to the vibrations of the universe and are often blessed with clairvoyance. (We are also known to be kind, caring, sensitive, artistic, humble, and good-looking in unconventional ways.)

Here are the predictions, based on the alignments of the stars, planets, and a proprietary divination method that I like to call “surfing the internet and then guessing.” Please read with a critical eye and consult with your doctor, lawyer, or astrologer before acting on any of these predictions below:

1.Artificial Intelligence will bring hope and fear to many: AI will be on the forefront of many minds. It is exciting! It is terrifying! It is coming! Will it allow us to quickly take care of pointless and time-consuming tasks such as writing grant proposals? Will we see a spike in creepy, unsettling images on websites and donor solicitation letters, creepier and more unsettling than just the usual white savior surrounded by kids of color? Is this the beginning of a tech Renaissance…or possibly the beginning of a Matrix-style robotic revolution that we will probably need to work into our theory of change and then fundraise to resist later? Be on the lookout for more of these discussions.

2.Donor-Advised Funds will reach a boiling point: Battle lines have been drawn the past few years on DAFs, with smart, sensible people calling out the inequity and grossness of an unregulated wealth-and-power-hoarding mechanism, while status-quo-protecting proponents of DAF going “nuh-uh!” Most people, unfortunately, care as much about DAFs as they do about the mating habits of the banana slug. Until this year! As DAFs continue to grow like an unchecked mold on the leftover lasagna of equity, more people will get involved and take sides, pushing for policies at the organizational as well as state and federal level.

3.Nonprofit unions will form in greater number: The sector’s collective exhaustion of poverty wages, pathetic benefits, crappy chairs, and nonexistent retirement savings reaches a crescendo. More and more nonprofit staff begin to explore forming unions. Tensions increase as reasonable demands clash with nonprofit funding challenges. New union structures form, including models where staff and management across different organizations work in concert to push funders to significantly increase funding across the sector.  

4.Rise in four-day work weeks: With the growing number of unions and the strengthened voices of progressive new leaders calling for mitigations of Capitalism’s toxic productivity culture, comes changes in how we work. A major such change will be the four-day workweek being adopted by more organizations. With longer weekends and less stress and burnout, nonprofit leaders start reverse-aging and looking their age, and getting more energy and general zest for life. There will be an increase in injuries from skydiving, bungee-jumping, and Argentine tango.

5.More creative forms of communications within and about nonprofit and philanthropy: Writing will never die, and podcasts will continue, but more and more folks will be exploring other creative means of communications. We will see an uptick in videos, satirical skits, stand-up comedy shows, beat poetry, and possibly shadow puppetry. Our target audience will also change, as nonprofit professionals, tired of the lack of awareness of intricacies of the sector, will start using these creative means to communicate with the general public on messages such as why giving money to food pantries is better than collecting cans. This will start to make a dent in the number of cans of beets being donated. Canned beet prices may go up; invest accordingly

6. Deeper conversations around neurodiversity: This year will see more engagement with neurodiversity, and in more meaningful ways. For example, neurodiversity and conflict resolution. Neurodiversity and the intersection with racism and sexism. Mental health as neurodiversity. There will be more research papers, articles, gatherings, and workshops and keynotes led by neurodivergent leaders, resulting in changes at the individual and organizational level.

7.Progressive-leaning foundations will finally start to see the light: Decades of wishy-washiness, toxic intellectualizing, and white moderate tendencies will give way to the realization that conservative policies are killing democracy and replacing it with fascism while destroying the earth in the process. Like prairie dogs waking up out of a decades-long stupor, many foundations will snap into consciousness and join their few, highly exhausted brethren on the battlefield, and will increase funding to fight voter suppression, gerrymandering, and corruption, and to get more progressive candidates into office before 2024’s decisive and potentially world-ending elections.

8. Hybrid events and work-schedules become standard: With the highly contagious XBB1.5 becoming the dominant COVID variant, 2023 will see a return of virtual events. Nonprofit organizations will realize that hybrid in-person/virtual events are here to stay, not only because they increase accessibility, but also due to the rapid demise of the earth due to climate change, a growing number of people will opt to attend virtually when in the past they would have attended in person. Work schedules will also become hybridized between in-office and WFH. The sales of sweat pants skyrocket; invest accordingly.

9.The beginning of the end of the traditional board model: Frustration around the traditional board model reaches tipping point. More and more executive leaders will call for “nuking the entire system!” Terrified and/or excited and/or indifferent, boards will agree to try out radical new models. Minimally viable boards, community boards, co-ops, and other structures will increasingly be in the spotlight. Robert’s Rules will fall out of favor. Monthly meetings give way to quarterly or annual meetings. There will be some failures and many lessons learned. Many board members, facing an existential crisis brought on by these changes, will exit boards and join cults.

10.Community-Centric Fundraising’s rise leads to unprecedented pearl-clutching: As CCF becomes more and more adopted across the sector, the level of fragility among status-quo-protecting fundraising experts reaches fever pitch, leading to collective huffiness, despaired wailing, uncritical defense of wealth hoarding and tax avoidance, and blocking of and public attacks on those who seek to instill equity into fundraising. These reactions will only serve to fuel the further spread of this movement across the globe.

11.Significant growth in number of co-directorships and no-directorships: As more and more executive leaders leave their positions, with some moving into the forest to heal, and an increasing number of up-and-coming leaders expressing that they’d rather sleep in a tank filled with live scorpions than assume the mantle of ED or CEO, the sector will see more co-directorships, tri-directorships, and possibly quads. Or the reverse: Organizations adopting flat structures that may have no executive leaders at all. These practices bleed into other areas of life, resulting in more nonprofit leaders engaging in polyamory.

12.A meta-reckoning with DEI: DEI has been on the forefront of the sector for the past few years. But what changes have the statements of solidarity, teary confessions, articles, white papers, and workshops brought? Not very much! Power and resources continue to remain entrenched in the grips of white organizations and leaders, according to efforts to bring reckoning to the lack of results from DEI efforts. This year will bring meta-reckoning, where we will now reckon with what, if any results, have come from calling out the lack of results.

What are your predictions? We will check back at the end of this year to see how many of these predictions come true. Now, if you will excuse me, I must stock up on canned beets to prepare for the potential robotic revolution.