This chart from Giving USA Foundation, published by the Urban Institute, illustrates the key areas where donors are making commitments.
The individual non-profits experiencing significant year-over-year growth do not necessarily mirror these statistics, however. That shows that scaling an organization, although dependent on donor trends, is also very much a function of the creativity and sales-savvy of an individual organization.
Rapid Growth Non-Profits to Watch
Charity Navigator publishes a list of the 10 fastest-growing charities, measured by consistent growth exceeding 35% over a three-year period. They must also have sufficient funds to sustain that growth rate in the future. The top three, with growth of over 100 percent are:
- Trinity Broadcasting of New York: With an 181 percent program growth rate, this faith-based media network is involved in charities including disaster relief and humanitarian efforts. Utilizing TV and social media programming as well as in-person events, their success seems to indicate that having trusted and highly visible spokespeople for a non-profit can build credibility and momentum.
- Blue Ridge Conservancy: Sustainability is a key concern for donors today. Although region, this non-profit “thinks big,” and utilizes the power of digital media to achieve its 135 percent growth rate. As more donors become concerned about the environment and public programs remain unfunded, “green” non-profits have a tremendous opportunity to tap into this rapidly growing donor base.
- The Preemptive Love Coalition: Aiding victims of war, this non-profit uses a compelling 30-minute fast-paced video to draw prospective donors into its mission. With a 120 percent growth rate, this non-profit is fully utilizing the power of video storytelling to make its cause come alive online.
The other seven non-profits to watch on the list are a mix of health, veteran, disaster, and arts-related causes. Some are regional rather than global, proving that even hyper-local organizations can scale provided they have the right team, focus, and marketing approach.
The next generation of non-profit founders are passionate about their causes and many of them started their organizations in an era when digital media was the norm. Unbound by the traditional thinking of some of their predecessors, they were able to make an immediate and significant mark on the world around them.
- The Thirst Project: Over the past decade, this non-profit dedicated to clean water has raised more than $10 million and run 3,000 projects in 13 countries. Their story is a great example of how a young founder can utilize the power of social media and community to raise awareness.
- Unspoken Smiles Foundation: Close to 500 million children are affected by improper dental treatment. Although only five years old, this non-profit has garnered significant media exposure, a GuideStar Seal of Transparency, and endorsements by major media figures.
- Girls Who Code: Founded by Reshma Saujani in 2012 with a mission of helping young women prepare for the careers of the future. Having served more than 185K girls to date, the organization is a testament to the success of education-related non-profits. Although the non-profit is national, they have enlisted the support of local communities and groups to spread their mission and fundraise.
The key takeaway from this group of new non-profits to watch is that even inexperienced leaders can, with the right blend of passion, marketing savvy, connections, and sales acumen, grow powerful new organizations.
Top 5 Leading Brands
Fast Company recently published its own “top brands” list of companies with charitable missions. Although they are not all non-profits, they have closely connected their commercial operations with causes.
Despite the entrance of new brands like TOMS, Love Your Melon, Warby Parker, and Honest Co, many of the tried-and-true brands have built a legacy and remain trusted by donors. The average donor supports 4.5 causes, so newcomers need to build credibility and awareness to tap into that donor base.
What Can You Learn from This?
Tomorrow’s cause-related organizations will be an eclectic blend of new and old fundraisers with leaders coming from a diverse range of backgrounds and skillsets. To grow rapidly, any non-profit or mission-driven brand must have:
- A clear and compelling mission;
- A strategic roadmap, including a very specific and powerful marketing and sales approach and connections to decision-makers;
- A leader who is credible, ethical, and passionate about the cause and can serve as a media spokesperson;
- Unblemished ethics and high ratings;
- The perfect blend of a big vision and local community advocates;
- Exceptional understanding of how your organization can best leverage technology for communication and growth. The newer non-profits are great case studies of how social media can be used in building awareness and credibility across multiple platforms;
- A finger on the pulse of where and how today’s consumers are giving and how their brand and vision is fundamentally different from other giving options;
- Partnerships – including vendors, brands, and people – who are dedicated to the mission and will serve as advocates and ambassadors.
As important as looking at the “winners” in today’s non-profit environment, leaders can also learn from those organizations who through mismanagement or media missteps have lost credibility and donors. Today’s’ media-savvy consumers have access to more information than ever and virtually unlimited choices of non-profits. Ensuring your financial and management practices are solid is as important as your website, marketing materials, and program execution.
Every non-profit today needs to watch and learn from the best practices of others, continually innovate and learn from those who are launching and growing.