The Future of Nonprofits & Philanthropy Cloud

The great Vu Lay, the hilarious genius behind NonprofitAF who gets the credit for the phrase “sexy jedi unicorn,” was recently featured in Nonprofit Quarterly talking about the future of the sector.

Vu often issues challenges to the normal way of thinking in the sector, and while I don’t always agree with them, he performs a vital service in keeping everyone on their toes.  Like Dan Pallotta, he has done a lot to question our assumptions about what a nonprofit should look like, and whether we effectively model the empowerment we all claim is at the heart of our change models.

Vu suggests that a consolidation of back-office functions like finance, HR, and fundraising, which he calls the “Community Alliance” model, freeing up staff to focus on programs.  The idea is that with each organization paying for their share of the resources, everyone gets to enjoy economies of scale, along with a climate of collaboration and support instead of “nonprofit hunger games.”

It’s a neat idea, and one whose time may be coming.  I have a hard time believing alliance members would be able to let go of total control over fundraising, but it’s an approach that has a certain appeal.

It made me think of the Philanthropy Cloud announcement at Dreamforce.  Salesforce.org calls it “their newest product,” and what it looks like is an employing giving portal, which makes sense because at this stage it’s a collaboration with the United Way.

Is there a place for these two ideas to come together?  I think so.  Philanthropy is changing; the day of “tea and cookies” with your major donors over multi-year relationships is fading.  Younger givers are more loyal to causes over organizations, and they want to have two way communication with the organizations they support.  It will be interesting to see what Philanthropy Cloud grows into.  I worry many in the sector will see it as the latest high-tech version of Nonprofit Hunger Games.  It could also be a step toward Vu’s vision as a shared back office for pledge processing, grants management, and corporate giving.