Fourth Future: Renewal

October 2, 2009

My fourth scenario focused on a long-overdue renewal. There is nothing like a crisis to focus attention on needed improvement. Mergers and acquisitions can be a sign of desperation or a way to strengthen performance, while downsizing can be a last gasp or a first step toward higher productivity.
Surely some nonprofits are taking advantage of the current crisis to scrub their operations, reduce needless rules, invest in new systems, and train their employees for a much less forgiving world. Surely others are seeking new opportunities for innovation, recruiting more creative board members, establishing idea incubators, and rewarding their employees for streamlining their work. Still, there is little evidence that the nonprofit sector is engaged in a major restructuring that will produce a new era of innovation. The probability of such a broad-based renewal seems to be stuck at zero as the sector awaits a collective conversation about how this crisis might be used to strengthen performance.
Prediction is always difficult in the midst of chaos. The recession will linger for some time to come, the cutbacks will almost certainly continue well into next year, and state budgets will not recover until housing begins to inch back. For the time being, my best guess would be continued withering with a lessening chance of winnowing. Nonprofits are at the breaking point, but appear to be holding on. The probability that they can continue under stress for another two years of increased demand and uncertainty is still a guess, but would appear to be a poor bet until the recovery shows its true shape.

 
 
 
 

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