6 Trends That Will Impact the Social Good Sector in 2017 | npENGAGE

6 Trends That Will Impact the Social Good Sector in 2017

By on Jan 17, 2017


Social Good Trends

We’re just a few weeks in and already 2017 is shaping up to be a roller coaster of a year.

With the constant changes, innovations, and breaking news impacting the sector, staying focused on the work that matters will be key for all of us. To help us navigate, Blackbaud leaders and industry experts came together to weigh in on what’s coming for the sector and what’s needed to best steer our work through 2017 and beyond.

Here are the top 6 trends that will impact the social good sector in 2017:

1. Democratization of Data:

We’ll see the continued convergence of data, insights, and analytics to drive improved decision making in nonprofits. But the champions for being more data driven will be nonprofit professionals that traditionally haven’t been hands-on users of the data. The use of data will no longer be a specialized skill or role, but instead part of everyone’s everyday toolset. Technology is removing many of the cost, scale, and analysis barriers that existed in the past. The democratization of data in the nonprofit sector will continue to increase in 2017. That means there’s an ever growing opportunity to improve results for nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions. – Steve MacLaughlin, VP of Analytics at Blackbaud

2. The Shift from Corporate Social Responsibility:

Corporate Social Responsibility will continue to shift to Human Social Responsibility, with organizations of all shapes and sizes—not just large companies—understanding that their people, and the human contracts they sign with the world, are at the core of a socially responsible strategy.  Matching a deep understanding of your people and your communities is an essential first step as we work toward doing more good in 2017. – Rachel Hutchisson, VP of Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy at Blackbaud


3. A Heightened Focus on Industry Best Practices:

We’ve heard the saying that fundraising is part art and part science. However, unlike our peers in other industries, I think it’s fair to say that, to date, we have not invested sufficiently in the science. Fundraising practices are excessively varied and often for less than sound reasons. We need to take greater advantage of our industry’s scale, using our valuable data and collective expertise, to both identify best practices and find ways to efficiently implement them throughout our sector.  Donors and especially the causes we serve are counting on us. – Chuck Longfield, Chief Scientist Blackbaud

4. The Introduction of Artificial Intelligence:

Artificial Intelligence could have great benefit for the global philanthropic community in 2017.  For example, a nonprofit could leverage AI to learn how their organization can collaborate with others to solve a global need featured in online posts and current events. AI can further foster collaboration for good by revealing how to contribute to a cause based on geography, skills, and/or passion. Mission delivery will also be enhanced with analysis and understanding of a specific cause or disease, and AI can help computer-based diagnostics in remote locations where healthcare resources are sparse. Robotics could even intelligently search and sort donations at a Food Bank or local Goodwill. Then, a community with the greatest need could be identified as recipients of those donations. I predict we’ll begin to see how the power of AI can be applied to very large and diverse data sets to help organizations make decisions, collaborate with others in their space, and promote their cause most effectively. — Mary Beth Westmoreland, Chief Technology Officer at Blackbaud

5. Measuring Outcomes to the SDGs:

In 2017, funders should increasingly look to connect their efforts to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unlike its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs apply to all countries, regardless of classification as developed or developing. To achieve the SDGs globally, it will be necessary for funders to track, measure and report on the results of their giving against the SDG targets and to encourage the organizations and individuals that they fund to do the same. – Annie Rhodes, Director, Foundation Strategy

6. Social + Grassroots Organizing:

In 2016, we saw traditional, centralized campaigns falter and fail. In 2017 I predict we’ll see a revival of state and local grassroots organizing, with micro-influencers as the new grasstops. Thanks to social channels, individuals have the tools to self-organize at an unprecedented scale — just ask Teresa Shook, retiree and unlikely organizer of The Women’s March on Washington. In response, nonprofits are maturing their social strategy beyond ‘post and measure’ to include empowering micro-influencers who can not only raise the visibility of their cause and boost fundraising, but in many cases act as highly empowered volunteers doing real work “on the ground”. – Roz Lemieux, General Manager, Attentive.ly at Blackbaud


Madeline Turner is a social media expert, and was formerly the online and social marketing manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a managing editor for Blackbaud’s content marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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