2018 is shaping up to be a monumental year for the charity sector, so it's important that organisations are ready for all the changes the coming months will bring.
Charity organisations are used to having to deal with complex, important responsibilities on a daily basis, but even within that context, it's looking likely that 2018 will prove to be a monumental year for the sector, filled with challenges and opportunities.
The economic constraints and shifting social landscape that generated such pressure on the charity sector in 2017 are likely to continue; at the same time, consumer habits are changing and digital innovations are altering the way people interact with charitable ventures, requiring a new outlook on how best to connect with these potential supporters and establish a working model that's fit for purpose in the modern era.
Of course, all of this needs to be dealt with while still maintaining a high standard of frontline support for the vulnerable communities that charities are designed to protect. This is why it's vital that those working in the sector take the time to consider some of the key trends they can expect to see in 2018, and make sure they have the skills and preparation in place to make the year a successful one.
As ever, the lifeblood of any charity in 2018 will be how much public support they are able to generate for their chosen causes – but while this remains the same, the means through which charities reach out to potential supporters will see a significant change.
This is because 2018 will be the year in which young people from Generation Z – those born in or after 2000 – will start to reach adulthood, bringing a new and distinct perspective to the charity sphere. These young adults have never existed in a world without the internet and social media, meaning not-for-profit bodies will need to learn how to make optimal use of these channels to offer personalised, interactive outreach campaigns that really resonate with this increasingly pivotal demographic.
The importance of getting this right is underlined by the findings of last year's Charity Digital Skills Report, which indicated that 50% of charities did not have a digital strategy in place, with many worrying they will lose touch with their audience, struggle to retain talent or become irrelevant as a result. As such, it has never been more vital for charities to make significant progress on this front.
The importance of finding new ways to reach broader audiences is underlined by the fact that many of the challenging conditions faced by the charity sector in 2017 are not expected to abate this year.
The UK Charity Commission's annual budget remains frozen at £20.3 million until 2020, but applications for charity registrations have increased by 40% since 2013, meaning the organisation's budget is falling in real terms. As such, access to funding is becoming more difficult to come by, requiring a careful, intelligent approach to management in order to ensure that frontline services can continue unaffected.
Additionally, charities need to be watchful for any changes in regulation that could have an effect on the way they operate – such as the recent change in government guidance on sleep-in arrangements, which has meant that charities employing overnight carers must now pay the minimum wage throughout the shift. With Brexit on the way, it's likely that further regulatory shifts may be forthcoming, so it's vital that charity bosses do all they can to keep their finger on the pulse.
These pressures and changing circumstances are making it more important than ever for charities to ensure they are operating with maximum efficiency, given that many will be reluctant to splash the cash on new hires to address any skills gaps or performance deficits.
This means making sure everyone within an organisation has a solid grasp of focused core objectives and principles that can be easily communicated, and to adopt a long-term strategic view on how best to maintain a sustainable performance, rather than rushing to implement short-term quick fixes that may end up being a waste of precious resources.
More and more charities are likely to be setting aside time for this kind of strategic review in 2018, recognising that doing so can be a cost-effective way of ensuring that learning and development goals are being met, and that organisations are spending their hard-earned money in the most effective way possible.
The imminent introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to pose significant challenges for organisations of all backgrounds, putting strict new rules in place over data security and usage rights, as well as the prospect of major fines for those that fail to comply.
For charities, the issue could be complicated further by the fact that GDPR may prevent them from maintaining the kind of extensive mailing lists they are used to keeping, due to concerns over holding personal data of this kind. This will make it harder to get in touch with potential donors, meaning it will be vital to offset this with new, more effective marketing initiatives that fully utilise channels such as social media.
The direct and indirect changes brought about by GDPR will require extensive staff training to prepare for, so it's essential that charity groups of all sizes make sure they've done so before the May 25th implementation deadline rolls around.