“Back to the Future” is coming to Broadway in New York this weekend. (My husband and I had a blast watching it in London last year.) With all the discussions about AI and Chat GPT, we thought we’d contemplate the future of the social sector along with some of the field’s visionaries.

We asked our TrendSpotters via email and social media what nonprofit trends will look like in the next 30 years, and dozens replied. Special thanks to Alyson Bleistine, Jerr Boschee, Jay Cole, Kyle Gardner, Jean Lee, Margery Miller, Julie Morris, Richard Perez and Rebecca Walls for their fantastic analysis. Many more followers said they couldn’t wait to hear the “jigowatt” ideas generated by fellow TrendSpotters. So, hop on your hover boards (or at least your Swagways), and check out the most mentioned ideas, predictions and aspirations for the future of the social sector:

Blended value 

In the future, the nonprofit and for-profit sector will converge to allow for heightened creativity, investment and spending around important social issues. Society will have greater acceptance for nonprofits that make money through great ideas and for-profits that fight for social causes more intentionally. Based on what I hear from my Gen Z students, the trend is already moving in this direction.

Abundant Business Models 

In 2053, the social space will be defined by an abundance philosophy in which nonprofits see the connection between innovation and impact as well as risk and reward. Nonprofits will move from being service providers to being solution providers focused on impact and scale through more than just programs. And, nonprofits will be not judged by an arbitrary overhead rate, but rather by the impact created per dollar, which will drive demand for social sector jobs.

Cross-sector, holistic collaboration and unification 

Thirty years from now, true collaboration will be the norm, with increased engagement and connection with government and business as more viable means to create solutions. The sector will be more comfortable with managing conflict and thinking “outside the silos” for better solutions. There will be more social sector organizations engaging in shared services and ecosystem building. Entrepreneurs will value bringing their talent to existing nonprofits as intrapreneurs, rather than adding to the proliferation of nonprofits.

Clients at the center of the work 

Nonprofits will have the luxury of working on customized, integrated solutions for clients – making them a name rather than a number. The social sector will work alongside its clients to co-create a system of support based on their unique needs and preferences, and data will be our guide as we evolve to better meet needs.

True diversity and equity 

Gender, race/ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and other differences that divide us will not be a factor anymore. Likewise, poverty, disability and illness will not carry the same social stigmas they do today.

Big insights vs Big Data 

In the future, a common client database will connect all service providers. Through better connection of resources and data mining, the social sector will improve its ability to gain insights through data and research and increase its focus on continuous improvement and being a learning community.

Financing impact 

Thirty years from now, impact investing will be the fulcrum of progress for the social sector. With better data mining and impact measurement, funders will better understand which interventions work and finance them for the long-term rather than the short-term.

Great Scott! We had so much fun receiving your predictions – we hope all of them and more are true in 2053. We welcome your feedback on these predictions and hope you will share them with your colleagues and friends. If we missed one, we would love to hear your thoughts!

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