The growth of a specific sector or business is often dependent on timing, in addition to the successful marriage of various social and economic circumstances. The nonprofit sector is no different and has itself been subject to significant growth since the turn of the century. In that time, the rate of job opportunities created within the nonprofit sector has risen by 2.1 percent, and with a workforce of more than 10.7 million paid employees, it now stands as America’s third largest industry. So what exactly has helped to drive nonprofit growth in the last decade, and how can charitable organizations capitalize to fulfil their mission?
Incentivizing Volunteers: Driving Change Through Reward
The growth of the nonprofit sector since 2000 is gives an even clearer perspective by the performance of the for-profit sector. In the last decade, job creation has fallen by 0.6 percent among commercial businesses, thanks largely to the global recession of 2009 and the subsequent absence of a sustained economic recovery. This has led to a vastly inflated rate of unemployment within the U.S. labor force and prompted many skilled and experienced individuals to seek careers in alternative industries and market niches.
While this by itself is not a reason for nonprofit growth, the improved incentives offered by nonprofits have ensured that charitable work has emerged as a genuinely appealing option for well-qualified job seekers. A good example of this is provided by the nonprofit Teach for America, which strives to deliver quality education to children living in poverty or disadvantaged regions.
It compensates its teachers with a range of health and insurance benefits, in addition to a minimum salary of $30,000 per annum. This type of incentive not only makes working the nonoprofit sector a realistic option for job seekers, but also allows charitable organizations to evolve through the application of outstanding talent
The Professional Nonprofit: Increasing the Demand for Marketable Skills
While the development of improved nonprofit incentives may be partially reliant on government funding, it is also an indication of the growing levels of professionalism that are prevalent within the sector. The concept of social enterprise has been a key driver of this, and as an increasing number of brands have been encouraged by their consumers to develop a keen awareness of their social responsibilities, so they, too, have sought to adapt their business models to incorporate any number of nonprofit activities and collaborations. With tools like social media also narrowing the gap between for=profit and nonprofit business, charitable organizations are becoming increasingly focused and streamlined as we enter 2012.
No social enterprise model reflects this ethos better this than UK nonprofit Travel2Give, which began as a for-profit brand before developing various charitable partnerships and a business model that generates specified donations for every holiday that is booked through them. Not only has this change of philosophy allowed the organization to grow from a struggling high street brand to a profitable social enterprise business with thriving partnerships, but it has also managed to increase the level of demand for its services and created a plethora of brand new job opportunities.
What Lessons Can Nonprofits Take Forward into 2012?
Given these developments, and the widespread predictions of significant evolution in the field of cause marketing in 2012, it is clear that commercial practices and partnerships are having an increasing influence on the growth of nonprofit organizations. Those nonprofits that are looking to incentivize their volunteers with tangible rewards are able to create a workforce that is as skilled as it is willing, while the incorporation of social enterprise into nonprofit ventures is helping them to create a more sustainable level of financial independence. Both of these factors show the way towards individual and economic growth, and drive nonprofits towards even greater success in 2012.