Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Top 3 Charity Trends in 2012 Reviewed

This time last year I predicted the Top 3 Charity Trends in 2012, and it's time to see how I fared.

1. My first prediction was that many small and medium sized charities would disappear in 2012.

Well, sadly I was was right, but I also predicted that others would use this "crunch" to innovate and reinvent themselves, and it turns out that was true too. For example, Touchstone Youth Centre closed its doors in November due to financial challenges. After over 20 years and providing outreach and shelter for thousands of young people, they were gone.  However, the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) took a different tack, and became a national association and plans to fulfill its mandate via a web-based presence. A final example is that of the Ontario Mental Health Foundation. They're still around, but due to a decrease in provincial funding and their own reduced return on investments, they have temporarily suspended a number of research fellowships. Net result? Fewer charities, reduced impact, but less spending. Without any way of assessing impact and value and which charity closes and which survives beforehand, there's no way of knowing whether the "right" charities closed or not. Or whether the right programs / initiatives died on the vine or not either.

2. My second prediction was that big charities would get bigger in 2012.

Many larger organizations celebrated their best year ever in 2012 in terms of revenue. However, in this new Darwinian world of charitable survival it's NOT really about who is most fit (e.g. who has the most impact and who is best equipped to deliver on their Mission) but rather who has the deepest pockets, the best fundraising campaigns, and the best top-of-mind awareness. So in the case of big charities the obverse from the small charities that closed is true: of those that grew, who really had the best impact and delivered the best value per donated dollar?

3. My final prediction for 2012 was that charities would increasingly think and in some ways act more like for-profit businesses.

This is a tougher result to review. Certainly I heard a lot at AFP Congress and other events about Social Entrepreneurs and Social Enterprises, but maybe I missed the breakthroughs we all keep expecting.  MaRS and others talked about Social Impact Bonds, but again even with Governments starting to get involved my sense is only modest change has occurred.  I can vouch for charities becoming far more savvy about their back-of-house operations, looking to squeeze already lean budgets to find a few more dollars. For example, the number of calls I get about how charities can partner to save money on rent (hubs, co-locations, etc.) has gone up dramatically. And the number of organizations that are looking to buy their own office and program spaces and grown as well.

Stay tuned for the 2013 predictions shortly!

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