One of my favorite expressions is, “There is no such thing as standing still; you are either moving forward or backward.” We may feel as though we are standing still, but things are constantly shifting around us.
Sometimes we make the change, but often the change happens to us, brought about by some force beyond our control. No matter the cause, if we are not intentional about keeping up with what’s happening in our spaces, we can quickly fall behind. This applies to all types of business, including nonprofits.
Here are three trends that I think will have a significant impact on the nonprofit sector and that organizations should begin to prepare for if they haven’t yet started.
- Cryptocurrency is coming to philanthropy.
While it has not yet made its way into widespread use in philanthropy, cryptocurrency is starting to show itself. This trend recently got a boost when actor Ashton Kutcher donated $4 million in Ripple’s XRP coins (a cryptocurrency he has invested in) to The Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund. Kutcher made the donation live on her show and completed the $4-million transaction from his phone in the span of a few seconds while millions watched.
Many, if not most, nonprofit organizations have no idea how to handle a gift of cryptocurrency. For starters, since it is a volatile commodity, many nonprofits don’t know how to value the gift. More questions follow such as: Can my bank handle it directly, or do I need a separate crypto wallet? Should I convert it to dollars or keep it as an investment? These are questions that organizations need to be asking themselves and setting policies around.
As with anything, there are pros and cons; however, as this currency becomes more and more common, it will certainly impact how gifts to nonprofits are made, so organizations need to be ready. The ability to accept cryptocurrency donations and then convert them into traditional currency will likely increase overall donations for nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits should consult with their banks and financial advisors to be made aware of implications for their specific organization.
- The home phone is an endangered species.
Very few people still have a landline home phone, and if they do, they likely never answer it. Since reaching donors by phone has been very important to fundraising, I believe that the continued demise of the home phone line will significantly impact fundraising efforts.
On a basic level, organizations must now collect and store multiple mobile phone numbers for each family. Another consideration is the calling schedule itself. Gone are the days when phonathon calls had to be made between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to catch people at home. Many families now designate device-free evening hours, making evenings the worst time for fundraisers to call.
Instead, nonprofits should be taking advantage of the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and reaching out to people during the day. This might be annoying to some people, but not any more annoying than it was to have your landline ring just when you had finally gathered everyone around the dinner table. Adjusting calling strategies is a must in our ubiquitous mobile phone landscape.
- Ticketing issues will impact the arts.
Arts organizations are going to find themselves facing the same challenge around “tickets” that colleges encountered with recent tax law change. A largely overlooked element of the 2017 tax law revision was the revocation of the 80/20 rule for donations to college athletics programs.
The 80/20 rule stated that if you made a gift to a college and that gift came with the right to purchase tickets to events that were not available to a nondonor (better seats, limited quantities, etc.), then you could deduct 80% of that as a charitable contribution, but 20% was not deductible. The revocation of this rule means that, as of January 1, 2018, no portion of a gift that carries with it access to tickets for an athletic event can be treated as a charitable contribution. This is having a profound impact on athletic fundraising at colleges and universities around the country as they work to raise money in a world where these common donations are no longer tax deductible under their existing ticketing systems.
Colleges are not taking this lying down. Many that we have spoken with are arguing that operas, symphonies and theaters all provide premium ticketing opportunities to donors, yet those tickets do not impact the deductibility of the contributions. It’s a fair argument and one that arts and cultural institutions should be preparing for now.
There appear to be two possible outcomes: 1) Congress restores tax deductibility for gifts that come with access to tickets, for all organizations; or 2) any gift that carries with it the right to tickets, to any kind of event that a nondonor would not have access to, is going to be deemed not tax deductible.
How likely do you think it is that Congress will be restoring tax deductibility for college tickets? We can pretty safely assume the second option is the most likely to happen. This will be a sea-changing event for many in the arts and culture sector. Organizations should consult with their fundraising counsel to develop strategies that counter-balance this impending effect before it becomes an issue.
With ever-changing policies and technological advancements in nonprofit fundraising, organizations need to always be preparing for what’s next. Reading trade publications, following industry leaders, consulting with experts, and attending conferences and seminars are all helpful ways to keep your nonprofit moving forward. After all, standing still is not an option; “you are either moving forward or backward.”
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.