Top 9 Nonprofit Trends to Watch for in 2023

The nonprofit sector is constantly evolving, and it can feel impossible to keep up with the rapid pace of change. 

To stay on top of your game in an increasingly competitive landscape, keep your eyes on these emerging nonprofit trends in 2023.

1. Increased efforts to acquire Millennials & Gen Z donors

For decades now, nonprofits have depended on the giving of generous, loyal Baby Boomers. Today, they account for over 70% of all nonprofit donations, outgiving people in every other age group.

But the grim reality is that this generation is passing on. 

And the current strategies that activated previous generations of donors will not work for Millennial and Gen Z donors. 

In the year ahead, keep your eyes out for innovative social campaigns, volunteer opportunities, events, and simplified giving strategies aimed at turning younger audiences into loyal donors. 

2. A responsive approach to design & branding

Staying culturally relevant is no small feat, especially for cash-strapped nonprofits. 

But even small brands can make big impressions across all platforms by adopting a responsive, scalable, and dynamic approach to design. 

A responsive branding strategy makes use of a broader palette of visuals that adapt to various platforms, helping a brand build trust and resonate with different audiences across different channels.

Why is this so important? Because today’s audiences demand authenticity. But that authenticity needs to be tailored to different segments on multiple platforms. A responsive approach gives you a fluid identity so you can build trust with different stakeholders and attract new donors across multiple channels.

3. Video at every stage of the donor journey

Video is rapidly becoming the preferred mode of communication across nearly every platform. Even Amazon is gearing up to launch a vertical video interface, similar to Instagram and TikTok.

This doesn’t mean your nonprofit needs to invest in high-quality equipment and a production studio. Users generally aren’t focused on consuming highly-produced content. Instead, they’re drawn to authentic, real-time, low-fi video.

Nonprofits that embrace video in 2023 will discover it to be a highly engaging, shareable, effective tool for communicating their message and reaching wider audiences.

4. Increased focus on relational donor experiences

With over 1.5 million nonprofits registered in the U.S., nonprofit leaders face stiff competition for donors. So how can you help your nonprofit stand out from the crowd, win donors’ hearts, and open wallets? By creating stand-out donor experiences.

Donor experiences include the touchpoints and interactions people encounter as they journey through your brand narrative and engage with calls to action.

By excavating and redesigning these touchpoints in 2023, you can create brand-first experiences that showcase your mission and engage advocates and donors who make larger gifts more often.

5. For-profits cutting into nonprofits

Doing good in the world is no longer a nonprofit-only game.

So much social good is coming out of the for-profit world as corporations embrace social impact and market their brands as platforms for change.

Corporations such as Patagonia, Tesla, and Ben and Jerry’s purposefully connect the products they sell with mission-driven values that resonate with conscientious consumers. As a result, consumers feel better about buying products they believe advance the common good.

Nonprofits can’t be replaced by for-profits. But if they fail to keep pace and learn from the top mission-driven corporations, nonprofits will be increasingly perceived as irrelevant and ineffective at making a real impact. 

In 2023, pay attention to successful for-profit brands that are pursuing social impact. Study their messaging and strategies for insights into how nonprofits can keep pace and level up.

6. Cause as entertainment

So many brands sound the same these days… as if their messaging were written by robots. 

Brands that develop a distinct personality and voice are guaranteed to stand out.

Case in point: Liquid Death, a hardcore water company that sells water in distinctive tallboy cans. Their mission is to kill plastic pollution and end single-use plastic water bottles. 

How? By building a successful brand that entertains consumers through self-aware advertising, parodies, and spoofs that show they don’t take themselves too seriously.

This sort of “cause as entertainment” has turned Liquid Death into a $700 million brand in less than 5 years.

In 2023, expect to see more brands embracing cause as entertainment.

7. Nonprofits distancing themselves from—or doubling down on—faith

It’s hard to imagine where our society would be without the legacy of services and support provided by faith-based organizations. 

But in our increasingly pluralistic society, more faith-based nonprofits are considering whether their faith alignment propels their mission forward… or holds it back.

Keep an eye out for an increasing number of conversations around faith alignment happening in the nonprofit space. Some organizations will strategically distance themselves from their spiritual roots to propel their mission forward—while others will double down, making faith an essential part of their brand narrative.

8. Renaming & repositioning for legacy nonprofits

In 1860, a group of service-minded individuals in Texas launched Lutheran Social Services of the South (LSS) to help break cycles of child abuse.

Organizations with similar names proliferated, creating confusion and weakening LSS’s market position. So they recently rebranded to Upbring. 

It’s a solid name. But it wasn’t only about getting a new name. They also needed to reposition their brand to better articulate their mission, engage their audience, and be more effective.

Legacy nonprofits have long-established track records, networks, and donor bases. 

But to stay relevant in 2023 and continue growing in a competitive context, legacy nonprofits will need to adapt, innovate, and refresh. 

9. Practical use of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) isn’t a passing fad. 

The degree to which a nonprofit embraces AI technology may very well be the deciding factor in its longevity.

While some use cases are still being vetted and tested (maybe hold off on developing your nonprofit’s own metaverse platform), here are ways AI can help nonprofits amplify their impact:

  • Analyze data and trends for better decision making
  • Provide predictive modeling to assess future outcomes 
  • Automate routine tasks to free up critical resources/time
  • Personalize communication to specific stakeholders/donors
  • Streamline customer service

Today’s rapid pace of change demands letting go of the rule books of the past and exploring new ways of doing.

As daunting as that may be, these are exciting times for nonprofit leaders seeking to stay ahead of the trends and embrace innovation. 

Not only will they more easily adapt to the changing needs and shifting priorities of their stakeholders—but they’ll also make a bigger impact and do more good.