Originally published in the January 2015 issue of Business NH Magazine.

New Hampshire nonprofits have taken major steps in recent years to sharpen their business models, lead with results, engage in strategic partnerships and deepen their relationships with donors. As we open the door to 2015, the nonprofit sector will be in a strong position to meet the challenges ahead. Four pivotal trends facing the sector in 2015 include:

Heightened Awareness of the Social Economy

One of the most important trends influencing the sector is the heightened awareness of the impact of the social economy. Social economy describes the collective financial impact of nonprofit organizations that either have explicit economic objectives or generate economic value through the services they provide and purchases they undertake.

As policy makers, business leaders and the general public connect the dots between the work of nonprofits and the economic vitality of our state, a new image of nonprofits, one more consistent with today’s realities, is emerging.  Nonprofits are being seen as organizations that build community and human capital.

Shifts in demographics, a rapidly changing business climate and a hollowed-out state government, have community planners,  economic development strategists and local municipal leaders emphasizing the importance of fostering our state’s high quality of life,  vibrant arts community and our outstanding outdoor environment – as our most vital advantages. And, that work is core to the nonprofit sector.

Going forward, momentum for seeing the nonprofit sector in a new light will continue, and this will open the door wider for collective action to foster prosperity for all.

Growth in Strategic Partnerships

An outgrowth of this deeper understanding of the economics of nonprofits is an increase in highly strategic partnerships within the sector and across sectors.   In Manchester this year, three innovative nonprofits - Families in Transition, Catholic Charities and Goodwill Industries - pooled their talents and resources to better serve families facing homelessness, food insecurity and joblessness.

In the Monadnock region, a unique nonprofit-municipal-for-profit partnership has been forged to develop a sustainable approach to senior nursing care, which will result in the creation of New Hampshire’s first Greenhouse Elder complex.

In the year ahead, we will see more of these partnerships, and we will see a significant investment of resources deployed to address big issues - such as the escalating problem of underage alcohol and drug abuse and families living in poverty - through collective action.

Donor Trust On the Rise and Women Leading the Way

During the recession, donors’ trust plummeted as many lost faith in all larger institutions: government, the financial industry, Wall Street and in some large nonprofits blemished by scandals.

Donor trust is returning. Charitable gifts were up overall by 3% nationwide and up by 10% for many of the largest and most popular charities.  With donor confidence up, we predict New Hampshire will see the launch of more capital campaigns, expansion of online fundraising efforts and planned giving.

Nonprofit fundraisers will be focused on the growing #1 demographic for giving - women. Women now donate 64% of all charitable gifts.

In the year ahead, we will continue to hear more about the growth in Donor Advised Funds (DAFs), as these are pacing as the fasted growing vehicle for donating in the nation.  Nonprofit fundraisers, board members and executives will be engaged in ongoing communication and partnering with foundations to learn more about how they can successfully connect their mission to donors who give via DAFs.

Board Members Embrace Role of Advocate

In the year ahead, there will be a significant push to engage board members as advocates.  Successful advocacy does not require board members to step into the quagmire of partisan politics. It simply means using their voices as committed and informed champions for their organization’s mission and for the sector.

Board members are ideally suited for this role because they are people who devote their lives, their resources, and their spare time to important community issues without any personal motive or incentive.

The sector and the people and communities of New Hampshire sorely need the calm, unwavering voices of board leaders sharing what they believe and helping policy makers understand the impact of their decisions.

In the year ahead, nonprofit organizations will do a much better job of making advocacy a higher priority and a less daunting role for board leaders. In many ways, the future of the people and communities nonprofits serve rests in the confidence and willingness of board leaders to raise their collective voices.

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