challenges in the nonprofit industry

8 Challenges in the Nonprofit Industry Today

Defined by Top-level Leaders in the Nonprofit Industry

By Shellie Speer, SVP, BDI Academy

Fall is finally here! As we head into the last quarter of 2022, many nonprofits are seeing effects from the recession, as well as continued effects from the pandemic. There are many challenges in the nonprofit industry today: 

  • Volunteers are starting to come back but in fewer numbers.
  • Attendance at in-person events is not yet at pre-pandemic levels. 
  • And the incredible generosity of 2020 donors has waned slightly with the higher costs of gasoline and groceries. 

Needless to say, a lot has changed in the past two years… and continues to change today.

For nonprofits and organizations in the nonprofit industry, the challenges of adapting to new technology, staying up-to-date on donor management software capabilities and hiring top talent on a small budget are never ending

Earlier this year, NonProfit PRO spoke to eight experts in the nonprofit industry – from nonprofit organizations, agencies and technology providers – about challenges they have and continue to encounter in our ever-changing world.

Explained by these experts, here are 8 challenges in the nonprofit industry that leaders are facing right now…

1. Digital Wallets

From Tim Sarrantonio, Director of Corporate Brand, Neon One

Digitization of payment technology will be one of the most important trends to come out of the pandemic. According to Visa’s Payment Panel in 2020, there’s been a 10% increase in credit card usage for charitable giving spending and a 20% decline in check giving over the past five years. 

With options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Visa Direct and other digital wallets – as well as improved online donation form experiences and QR code usage driving individual givers to donate online – this is a trend that will continue in the coming years. 

Digitization has also begun to extend into other giving channels like stock giving and donor-advised funds. There’s also been a major increase in the adoption of cryptocurrency for affluent donors looking to support organizations.

2. Nonprofit Office Culture

From Erin Mulligan Nelson, CEO, Social Solutions

The importance of leading with empathy while championing an inclusive culture can’t be overstated. We’re going into the third year since the beginning of the pandemic. People have experienced great loss, battled with mental health issues and struggled to establish some semblance of normalcy. 

To keep teams motivated and inspired, the workplace must be an environment where they feel supported, accepted and understood. Creating this type of culture involves investing in initiatives like diversity, equity and inclusion policies, and an authentic commitment from leadership that inclusion really matters.

In addition, focusing on mental health will continue to be important in 2022. Providing support resources, wellness programs, flexibility across the organization and normalizing discussion on how people are doing and feeling is a critical component of people feeling seen and valued.

3. Technology for Good

From Pinky Vincent, Assistant Director of Development & Marketing, Change Machine

[We are] describing our donors as transactional units – major donors, LYBYNT, SYBUNT, etc. – even as internal fundraising jargon is being challenged. We don’t have the answers, but it’s a good time to rethink what we choose to call our donors and partners. 

As nonprofits dabble with AI to mine information about donors, we have to ask ourselves are we using tech for good? Are we using tech to promote equity? What are our privacy guardrails? What are we doing to keep our donor information safe from hackers? And do we have a rapid response plan in place when we need to share bad news with our donors?

4. Build Future Board Members

From Rick Willis, Senior Vice President of Community Engagement & Revenue Strategy, Arthritis Foundation 

Building and maintaining a bench of future leaders must remain an ongoing discipline. Focus on creating leadership pathways within your organization that enable individuals to demonstrate their strengths and grow with you, ultimately into the role of a board member.

5. Increased Donor Privacy

From Chris Himes, CEO, Classy

This past year, Apple released several privacy updates that changed the way brands track consumer engagement, limiting email open rate data and activity tracking among IP addresses. 

We’ll likely see more privacy updates in the coming year as additional companies choose to prioritize consumer data rights. In light of these updates, I expect to see nonprofits adapt the ways they reach and connect with donors. 

There will be more focus on letting donors choose how and where their information is shared, and how they like to be engaged with as a result – which is really a form of donor empowerment. 

Personalization will be critical to build relationships that result in loyal donor bases. Nonprofit interactions with supporters will need to be tailored according to their stage of life, intent and preferences for communication. There’s a lot a nonprofit can learn from looking within their specific donor base. 

6. Social Media Followers

From Brenna Holmes, Principal and Senior Vice President, Chapman Cubine Allen + Hussey

“Peer-to-peer” is the culmination of traditional word-of-mouth, friends and family referrals, and social-web evangelists and influencers. Nonprofits need to make the most of it. 

People give to people, and nothing is more impactful in our highly connected and socially conscious world than a recommendation from someone we know and trust. “Knowing” someone is also more fluid now – we are connected to hundreds, sometimes thousands of people we’ve never met in real life. 

So nonprofits need to build up donor relations skill sets within their social media community management teams to find those followers who are willing and able to help promote initiatives and provide testimonials to inspire and educate those less familiar with the mission.

7. Fundraiser Time Management

From Tammy Zonker, Founder, Fundraising Transformed

Since the on-again-off-again pandemic shutdown, fundraising professionals are longing [for] connection with their supporters. To do so effectively, we need to meet donors where they are. 

Are they tech-savvy and enjoy connecting via Zoom, or are they over it? Are they old-school and enjoy phone conversations? Perhaps they would enjoy a walking conversation with you in their neighborhood or at the nature preserve they support. 

Often, we suggest connecting in the communication medium we prefer. Isn’t it true that meeting by Zoom has become an assumption? We’re taken by surprise when someone wants an old-fashioned phone call. I’ve learned many lessons from this pandemic. Two of them are that time is precious and that I should make no assumptions. 

8. Finding New Audiences

 From Tarsha Whitaker Calloway, Vice President of Philanthropy, Tessitura Network

One of the best ways a nonprofit can get the word out about their mission is to be present where donors tend to navigate. As fundraisers, we oftentimes attend events and meetings where we see and interact with our peers, but a key strategy to share your mission outside of the typical audience is to attend events, sit on panels and write to audiences that are not in the nonprofit space. This is expanding your voice and opening doors to donors you otherwise would not have engaged. 


My hope is that you can use these expert insights to strengthen and prepare your nonprofit team for these rapidly changing times. Remember that leaders in the nonprofit industry across the U.S. are facing challenges, asking questions and seeking answers just like you. You are not alone in this! 

If you would like to talk about the challenges your nonprofit is facing or how you can apply the tips in this article to your team, please email me today. I’d love to chat with you!  

  • Shellie Speer

    Shellie Speer-Burnett, Senior Vice President, BDI Academy

    With over 30 years of partnership in Rescue Missions and nonprofit organizations, Shellie Speer-Burnett brings her expertise, counsel and philanthropic-centered passion to assist in furthering the work of BDI’s Rescue Mission clients. For 22 years of her career, she served as the Founder and President/CEO of her own agency, ENEX Group, which helped her clients capture hearts and donor loyalty in their communities.

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