7 Social Impact Trends to Help Shape Your 2016 Strategy

By Allison Gauss
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

The social impact sector is evolving faster than ever, with new breakthroughs and best practices emerging constantly. While there will certainly be some surprises in 2016, nonprofit organizations can expect some overarching trends to take center stage. Tune into these developments in the social impact sector now to help attract and delight donors moving forward.

We’ve gathered the top trends to look for in 2016, along with some actionable tips on how you can plug these into your strategy. Use these predictions to get a jump on the latest and greatest best practices for fundraising, communicating, and making an impact.

1. Mobile Design Is Non-Negotiable

With 66 percent of emails being opened on a smartphone or tablet, nonprofits (and for-profits) cannot put off becoming mobile-friendly anymore. Your organization’s website, emails, and donation pages must be usable on mobile devices or you risk losing donors. A survey of millennials found that trying to navigate non-mobile-friendly sites was their biggest pet peeve when it came to connecting with nonprofits.

By now, mobile design is not a luxury, but a prerequisite to your credibility as a modern, professional organization. When designing or revamping your website, prioritize a pleasing experience for people on all screen sizes. The same goes for your emails and any online giving processes. Make it easy to support your work and get involved.

2. The Proliferation of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

More than ever, supporters of a cause are going beyond simply making a donation. Instead, they are becoming advocates and leveraging their own social network to make a bigger financial impact. With sleek, easy-to-use fundraising software and the interconnectedness of social media, peer-to-peer stands to grow in popularity among both nonprofits and individual supporters.

Whether they are fundraising for a 5K run/walk, a birthday, or a wedding, expect to see more of your organization’s community members (and your own family and friends) setting their own fundraising goals and mobilizing others. Be ready for the continued growth of peer-to-peer by choosing the right platform and giving your supporters the resources to succeed.

3. More Nonprofits Are Investing in the Future

With its emphasis on thrift and low overhead costs, the social impact sector has been slow to adopt new technology and invest in organizational infrastructure. The intention may be to please donors, but this mindset is holding many nonprofits back from unlocking their true potential. An influx of young founders and the influence of startup principles are turning the tide.

“We have really frank conversations with people. ‘Yes, we’re investing in our finance and development…and that’s how we’re going to deliver services to 100 communities next year instead of the 35 we did this year,’” says Team Rubicon’s Co-founder and CEO, Jake Wood.

Organizations of all sizes are seeing the value of investing in the staff and technology to create lasting, scalable solutions. Within your own nonprofit, ask whether hiring a new development professional, implementing new technology, or simply getting the durable supplies you need will make you more powerful three, five, or 10 years from now.

4. Get in Touch With Gamers

Video game enthusiasts have raised millions for various causes, but many people are only just learning about this charitable community. Through individual donations, peer-to-peer fundraising, and corporate partnerships, nonprofits like Child’s Play and Extra Life are mobilizing a tech-savvy audience to give back. Gamers are a great fit for online fundraising because many are comfortable with online transactions and are active on social platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

Your nonprofit could have a group of enthusiastic supporters waiting to combine their passion for gaming with their passion for giving. Look for gaming communities with a connection to your cause. For example, an organization rebuilding homes after a natural disaster could approach people who enjoy the game Minecraft, in which users design and build their own buildings. While charitable gamers have long flown under the radar, they are poised to become an even bigger force for social good.

5. RIP to the Text-Heavy Annual Report

The annual (or quarterly) reports of nonprofits have undergone a makeover in recent years. Perhaps the biggest shift has been from printed, mailed reports to emails and digital documents. While this move away from printed reports will likely continue in 2016, you can expect another trend in these donor communications: less text, more graphics.

With infographics and other visual representations of impact, nonprofits can convey their most important accomplishments more quickly to scanning readers. Images are processed much faster by the human brain and a well-chosen photo from the field can do more to strengthen a donor relationship than a wall of text. Combine digestible information with great visuals and you will have an annual report donors actually want to read.

6. Collaboration, Not Competition

Sometimes two heads are better than one, and often an organization can make a greater impact on a cause by partnering with another nonprofit. While stress over funding can drive you to think of other organizations as competitors, nonprofits must remember that others in their field are on the same team. You are both working to solve a problem. Why not solve it together?

Organizations like Barbells for Boobs, Watsi, and Possible are leading the way toward a more connected, collaborative social sector. When you encounter other organizations, think of what you can accomplish together, not who’s outdoing whom.

7. Social Media and Fundraising Will Be Tighter Than Ever

Social media has been an important driver of fundraising for several years now, but every day the two seem to become more entwined. Facebook has added a donate button to nonprofit pages, #GivingTuesday takes over Twitter once a year, and viral campaigns like the Ice Bucket Challenge have tapped into Instagram and other platforms.

In 2016, social media will continue to evolve into a vital part of marketing a fundraising campaign. Software integrations will make it easier than ever to share your donation or fundraising page. Through hashtags, CTAs, and creative campaigns, nonprofits will build social media into their fundraising strategies. When looking forward to your next year of development, keep in mind your social audience and how you can engage and mobilize them. Like mobile design, social media is now a necessary component of successful fundraising.

The new year brings new challenges and new best practices and knowing the trends coming in 2016 will help your organization hit the ground running. While there are sure to be surprises, our current data and observations shed light on what’s coming next year in the social impact sector.

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