If you’re like most nonprofit leaders, you’ve closed the books on 2023 with a huge sigh of relief. (We made it, didn’t we?)
Now it’s time to make the most of this fresh start and gear up for whatever 2024 may bring.
So how can you stay ready for what this year may deliver?
Here are 9 emerging nonprofit trends to watch out for—so you can stay ahead of the curve as you lead your team toward greater mission impact.
1. A focus on service design
Acquiring and engaging donors is a constant challenge.
To attract and retain their donors, more nonprofits will be turning to human-centered service design in 2024 to create donor experiences that are not only efficient and functional—but also enjoyable, personal, and satisfying.
In human-centered service design, the donor is at the forefront of the design process. This approach can help you improve the quality of your services—from the ease of giving to personalized communication and much more—and tailor them to meet donors’ emotional needs for meaningful impact.
It involves cultivating real relationships with intentionality—such as inviting donors to a carefully planned dinner party or sending a thoughtfully curated gift.
Since we live in an age of customer-service-centric platforms, creating donor-centered services is no longer optional.
Increasingly, your donors will expect streamlined, satisfying experiences that win their loyalty and engage them as repeat givers.
2. Nonprofits investing in brand marketing
In the past, your nonprofit may have been able to keep running by relying on personal relationships, legacy donors, word-of-mouth referrals, and direct appeals.
There’s still a place for these traditional methods.
But if you want to stand out and attract new donors, this is the year to invest in brand marketing.
Brand marketing allows you to create a strong, positive identity—one that inspires trust and credibility, unlocks enthusiastic support around a compelling mission, and differentiates your organization from the thousands of others vying for donors’ dollars.
And it’s more than a visual identity. It includes the stories you tell to convey need and impact, the emotional connection you make with donors, and a consistent communication strategy to advocate for your cause and advance your mission more effectively.
3. Disruptive messaging to cut through the noise of an election year
With a contentious election season on its way, 2024 will be loud and competitive.
So does that mean your messaging has to be loud to compete? Nope.
But you will need to be creatively disruptive in the messages and experiences you offer.
Use disruption to break out of traditional narratives and offer a new perspective on your mission. What does your nonprofit do differently from the rest? Why does that matter now more than ever? How can you articulate it in a way that breaks expectations, casts a new vision, and inspires new action?
Be bold in order to capture attention and evoke an emotional response, while keeping your messaging aligned with your mission and values.
4. Trained AI models to give nonprofit teams an edge
Yes, we know: Giving a hot take on AI is so 2023.
But hear us out, because this is about training your very own AI model, customized for your nonprofit.
AI models can be fed data specific to your organization, allowing them to learn patterns, make predictions, and perform specific tasks.
The potential for impact is vast. You can train an AI model to analyze large data sets quickly, giving you insights into your donors’ behaviors or program effectiveness.
You can create AI-driven chatbots to offer 24/7 real-time support to web visitors, donors, and volunteers.
AI models can also help you make your fundraising campaigns more effective, draft grants and letters written according to your style and preferences, and much more.
5. Investment in employee experiences
Nonprofit staff members are amazing, aren’t they?
Your hard-working employees pour their hearts into the work, often showing resilience through blood, sweat, and tears.
And so when a staff member leaves, it can feel painful and disorienting.
With staff transition and attrition likely to increase in 2024, this is the year to invest in your employee experience just as much as you invest in the donor experience.
Take a hard look at your internal culture and work with experts who can help you create an engaging nonprofit culture that aligns with your brand.
And don’t forget to support your team members’ growth, providing opportunities to learn new skills and take on greater responsibilities.
6. Donor personalization and customization
Personalization is now the standard for donor experiences.
If your organization has yet to personalize and customize your donor communications, then this is the year to do so.
At the most basic level, this means personalizing emails with donors’ names, customizing donation appeals with relevant giving arrays and stories, and sending immediate, personalized thank yous after every donation.
But don’t stop there! Provide customized content tailored to a donor’s interests and the causes they care about most. Offer real-time progress reports that tie directly to their previous donations.
7. Casual and social giving
Imagine partnering up with an influencer who encourages their audience to give toward your nonprofit.
Suddenly you’ve got waves of one-time gifts flowing in, thanks in part to simple tools like Venmo that make it fast and easy for the average person to give.
That’s the beauty of casual giving: first-time gifts made simple. The challenge is cultivating those new donors into loyal repeat givers.
Social giving happens when someone makes a donation based on a desire to feel part of a meaningful, like-minded community. They see a friend give, and they respond in kind to feel part of a movement.
In 2024, look for opportunities to simplify casual giving by leveraging influencers and supporting donations via peer-to-peer payment platforms.
And consider launching peer-driven campaigns built to cultivate a sense of belonging and draw people into communities of generosity.
8. Increasing the speed of decision-making
In an age of rapid change, having plenty of time to make decisions can feel like a luxury.
But here’s the thing: An abundance of time can also be a liability.
Because if you spend loads of time making a decision, you’ll miss out on opportunities to see what works, adapt to change, and refine your solution. Besides, in the days or weeks it takes you to make a decision, realities are likely to change faster than you can keep up.
In 2024, learn to make better decisions faster. This agility will set up your team to better respond to unexpected opportunities, navigate an increasingly complex world, and solve your toughest problems… so you can make a bigger, more meaningful impact in the world.
9. Going beyond stories of impact
Everyone loves a good impact story. The best stories pull readers in, engage their emotions, and offer compelling evidence of transformation.
But many nonprofits are missing out on a different but equally effective type of storytelling: personal, relatable stories of the visionaries and staff bringing the mission to life.
Tell the stories of your founders and staff members… how they first encountered the problem and what convinced them that they could do something about it. Bring these stories to life through details and emotions that make the heroes relatable.
The goal? To help current and prospective donors see their own desires for impact reflected in the origin stories of your founders and team.
Now on to you: Which of these trends do you expect will have the biggest impact on your nonprofit?
How will you take advantage of the opportunities it offers?
With the rapid pace of change ever-increasing, take time right now to plan how you’ll stay ahead of the curve.
And if you find your team is struggling to keep up—and if you need a team of experts who will help your nonprofit navigate change so your organization ends up stronger in 2024—we’ve got your back.