Second Future: A Steady Withering

September 30, 2009

My second scenario focused on a steady withering of the sector’s general capacity to meet its mission. Virtually every data point from the sector shows this scenario is coming true. It is not clear just how many nonprofit employees are now out of work, but surely the sector accounts for some percentage of the nation’s 9.7 percent unemployment rate. With revenues in steep decline, the probability for continued withering is 100 percent. 

This withering may well have some positive effects, especially if it prompts need organizational investment. At least for now, however, productivity seems to be rising largely because nonprofit employees are producing more with less. Some of the withering has been well planned, through thoughtful engagement with stakeholders, boards, and funders, but much appears to be ad hoc. My hunch, and it is just a hunch, is that some of the withering will produce leaner, more effective nonprofits, but most will produce weaker organizations that will need time to recover from their self-inflicted wounds.
Tomorrow: The Third Future.

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Paul C. Light


Sep 12

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