photo courtesy of Jewish Greeting Cards

Tonight marks the seventh day of Hanukkah – or the Festival of Lights. It commemorates the victory and recapture of Jerusalem in the year 164 BC. It is celebrated by the lighting of a menorah. One candle, known as the shamash, is lit and then used to light the other eight candles. It recreates a miracle that happened shortly after the victory when the Jews lit a menorah – which represents knowledge and creation – with only one day’s supply of oil and it lasted for eight nights. For all of us, whether Jewish or not, it is a symbol of resilience – which is a perfect analogy for 2020. We have had a roller coaster of a ride this year. While the journey has been difficult and there have been many unknowns, we have been impressed by the resilience of the social sector in continuing to be a light in the face of much darkness. To help you stay motivated, we’ve prepared a list of 2020 TrendSpotter favorites. We hope this retrospective empowers you as you prepare for 2021.

#1 7 Actions Nonprofits Can Take to Be Anti-Racist Organizations

We hope 2020 will be known as the year we turned a corner on racial justice and truly prioritized equity as a sector. It doesn’t matter if your mission is in the arts or afterschool programs, racism is an undercurrent that devalues our work in the social sector every day, and it should be everyone’s mission to name it, claim it and resolve it. In this 2020 blog, we showcase the top 7 actions nonprofits can and should take to become better anti-racist leaders as well as examples of how they are doing it. As you move into 2021, we encourage you to re-read this post and see how far you have progressed on racial equity this year.

#2 Are Nonprofit Business Plans Dead?

We talk a lot about innovation in the Social Trendspotter, but sometimes we need to invent a completely new solution. “Evolve or die” – this saying is even more true today than when I started Social Impact Architects. Just 10 years ago, I learned about social business plans in business school, but today traditional business plans are being replaced by a more efficient tool – the business model canvas. In this post, I share our simple, time-tested template for a social business model canvas – which requires nonprofits and social entrepreneurs to address the tension between impact and revenue. As you decide on social ventures or programs to pursue in 2021, I hope our revamped version will serve as a valuable tool to jumpstart your efforts.

#3 System Change: Do We Fix the System or Change it Altogether?

In 2016, we predicted a surge in interest in system change. When COVID-19 hit, it acted like a wrecking ball to our established systems. Already vulnerable, many organizations buckled under the weight of the pandemic. Now, we have an opportunity to fix the system collectively – or perhaps change it altogether. In this blog, we discuss lessons learned from two decades of experience in the trenches conducting system change. 

System Change Pic

#4 Do’s and Don’ts of Remote Leadership

As more people work from home, the greater our need is for remote leadership. In February, TIME Magazine called the last few months “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.” To help you better navigate the world of remote leadership, we have put together our do’s and don’ts for culture, norms, rules and tools. As you evaluate 2020 and plan for 2021, see how you stack up as an employer and resolve to upgrade your organization.

#5 Etiquette for Effective Enjoyable Online Meetings

“You are on mute.” How many times have we all uttered this statement in 2020? Too many times to count! Because of remote work, we were thrown into online meetings without a lot of preparation. So, throughout the year, we curated tips for not only effective, but also “connected” online meetings to share with your teams. It builds upon one of our top blog posts on effective meetings and applies best practices to the online medium. We even produced a training on it for the Federal Reserve that you are welcome to use at your next lunch and learn (online etiquette training). If you want to improve your online meetings, check it out and let us know what you think.

“Hanukkah Sameach!” We hope you enjoy this look back at this year’s Social TrendSpotter favorites. If you have been inspired, we would love for you to share them through Twitter or Facebook. Feel free to forward this post to friends and colleagues, too. We would also love to hear your favorite posts of the year and how you have used them in your organization.


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