Investing in the future

By Todd Cohen

Charities need to shape their own future.

With social problems and competition for resources rising, charities can barely stay afloat.

And they typically lack the time, know-how and funds needed to find new ways to run their shops, serve clients, raise money, shape policy and keep pace with change.

Unlike their counterparts in the business world, individual charities can find it tough to invest in research and development to improve their business.

A growing industry of trade groups and academic centers develops and provides charitable tools, strategies and training.

But these can be generic, lack the urgency of the marketplace, and reek of the stale doctrine, philanthropic correctness, herd instincts and in-bred elitism that rule much of philanthropy.

The best ideas and business models are likely to flow from individual charities building on their own experiences and addressing their own institutional and competitive needs.

Community foundations, colleges, universities and other charities, for example, can recruit donors to support positions or even endow “chairs” in their development offices to conduct research and develop strategies to boost their marketing, fundraising, donor engagement, social enterprise and other work.

To thrive in an increasingly fierce marketplace, charities must invest in thinking ahead for themselves.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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