Looking to 2030, for me the important question is not what will the future of fundraising look like, or the future of charities, but what will the future of ‘doing good’ be? How will society solve its big problems differently? And what role will charities play in that?
I believe charities will still play an important role in 2030. But it’ll look different and they’ll share the job of doing good much more with others, most notably committed individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses.
Even now, more and more companies are positioning themselves as "purposeful brands" – often it’s just a marketing exercise, but increasingly it’s genuine. They’re really committed to it because they know that in order to acquire and retain customers and staff they need more than just a financial bottom line.
Similarly, younger generations want to be more actively involved in solving society’s big problems – they’re confident, energetic and entrepreneurial and believe in their capacity to solve problems. And increasingly technology enables them to do that without needing to go through the medium of charity.
So, for charities, the threat is disintermediation – the possibility of becoming irrelevant as businesses, entrepreneurs and committed individuals bypass them to tackle society’s big problems differently.
The opportunity for charities is in collaboration and partnership.
If you think about most charities’ missions, they’re massively ambitious. Way too big for one organisation to solve by themselves. So, the increased desire among businesses and supporters to get involved presents charities with a great opportunity to become convenors, facilitators and platforms connecting committed people and organisations to help deliver their missions collaboratively.
Charities could be the hub at the heart of a network of people, all of whom are engaged in trying to solve the same social problem. What charities can bring to the table is expertise – a really deep understanding of the issues. They don’t have to have the solutions, they’ll just need to connect with people who can create them.
I also believe the historic division of fundraising from programmes will be more blurred in the future. Increasingly charities are designing services that create income to ensure their sustainability. A lot of Good Innovation’s work is now about diversifying charities income away from just ‘giving’, helping them commercialise their skills, assets and capabilities and exploring how they can deliver their mission and generate money at the same time.
While people will still give to charities, I think we’ll see a much more blended mix of funding in the future, combining voluntary giving and commercial funding from an exchange of value between charities and their supporters. This will require a new attitude to risk and a more entrepreneurial mentality from charities.
Doing good in the future will involve a much more fluid and diverse mix of entrepreneurs, start-ups, movements, companies and charities solving big social problems collaboratively. It’s an exciting prospect, but it will require charities to behave differently. The more open and flexible ones will thrive. Those who fail to open-up may well become irrelevant.
Kevin Waudby is a partner at the Good Innovation consultancy