The future of nonprofits is changing… Are you keeping up?

Inside the walls of a nonprofit exists a rare breed of dedicated and passionate people who are doing good and necessary work. As their leader, you have been in the trenches for years right beside them. You feel the pain of those that your mission serves, and you know what it takes to help. You and your team are in this for all the right reasons.

If that’s true, why are so many nonprofits that were founded decades ago at risk of becoming irrelevant?

The marketing climate has changed. Today’s approach requires building a relationship with your followers and drawing them in to your cause. This is a big shift from what worked in the past, and adapting to this new reality is something many aren’t prepared for.

Effective leaders are those who anticipate what is needed next, and motivate their teams to meet the challenge. So you may be asking yourself, “What can I do about this?”

As the executive director or chief development officer of a long-standing nonprofit, your ability to drive change and adapt to the future is essential to ensure another 20-30 years of growth. Embracing innovation has never been more important.

In his book Road to Reinvention, best-selling author and Detroit businessman Josh Linkner, narrates the downfall of organizations who slowly hemorrhaged over a period of years because they failed to innovate. He shares: “The lesson is clear: Quickly adapting to future trends rather than clinging to yesterday’s success is the only way to ensure long-term survival.”

It’s likely you’re already thinking about innovating your programs. Maybe you’re transforming your shelter into a beautiful, light-filled space, or adopting a service model that treats your clients like paying customers. Naturally, that is the best first place to start. But are you sure that’s enough?

Linker goes on to urge, “Reinventing the way you tell your story, communicate (both internally and externally), and marketing yourself and your brand can be the difference makers between a highly successful outcome or the unfortunate consolation prize of stinging regret.” Ouch.

The question is: What’s your next move?

There are two paths ahead. You can follow the inertia of decades past when communicating was much simpler, or you can square your shoulders to the truth: Your stakeholders are different than they were years ago, and that means your approach needs to be different, too.

Some of the most visible nonprofit brands in the nation already understand this. The Smithsonian Institution prioritized innovation in order to shift its perception as just a museum. In a bold move, its leaders eased up on the need for exhaustive testing before releasing a storytelling concept to the public. They understood today’s rapid, social media world requires learning on the fly.

Learning on the fly… whew… deep breath. That can be a challenging concept for tenured board and staff members to accept. From day -one you’ve been meticulous about every move, ensuring good stewardship and responsible decision making. Please, keep up that sound practice where it’s needed. But when it comes to storytelling, too much caution can hinder success.

It may seem daunting to evolve your communication strategy into a seamless effort that makes your story truly resonate, but you are not alone. There are 80,000+ nonprofits in Michigan thinking about the exact same thing right now.

Many of them have already started developing the fresh ideas that will allow them to reach the next generation of supporters. As a result, they are primed to tap into the greatest transfer of wealth our country has ever seen. The “golden age” of nonprofits is right around the corner, and adopting a change-oriented mindset in all areas of your organization, most importantly storytelling, is what will get you there.

Are you ready for this shift?

Of course you are. Innovation and new ideas have always been something you’ve valued. Hell, when you were the rookie you might have even pushed harder for change than leadership at the time was ready for. So consider this permission to start pushing again, this time toward storytelling reinvention. It might not be a comfortable process, but it will be worth it.

Change is hard. But you are brave. Begin now.

Did this message resonate with you? Are you a nonprofit leader hitting a wall with storytelling? Stay with us. We’re in your corner. Sign up for our email list below.