Can we expect an Airbnb or Uber in charity land?

What will the charity landscape look like in 2035? That’s a question we ask ourselves a lot lately. Economic crises, changing consumer behavior and new forms of entrepreneurship force organizations to change. If you take a look at other sectors, you see (relatively) new initiatives like Airbnb or Uber create turbulent times for existing companies. It seems that the weather is still calm in charity land. But for how long?

If you were to predict: what will charities look like in 20 years? We’d love to hear from you!

Change doesn’t only happen 20 years from now. It could just as well happen next year, or maybe even next week. So the question is not when it comes, but: are today’s charities ready to deal with change when it’s there? If you take a look at other sectors, you see that the sudden appearance of innovative and competitive players can cause an immense shift in traditional systems. It sometimes even leads to complete new legislation.

Before you share your thoughts with us on what charities will look like in 2035, we’d like to inspire you with some trends. Will these be of any effect on the future of charities too?

1. Ten years ago it took organizations about a decade to make a turnover of 1 billion euros. Nowadays, some startups achieve this in their first year. Take Airbnb and Uber for example. Their user base grows exponentially, so unequivocally their services fulfill a need. At the same time they cause disruptive change within the world of tourism and taxis. Startups like Airbnb and Uber are completely different in their approach. For instance, they often have a massive transformative purpose: the ambition to create radical change, to create a better world. It’s often those ambitions that mobilize people. Way more than ‘we want to make more turnover’. And this is where it gets interesting. Because, isn’t this exactly what most charities secretly still aspire? E.g. to raise 10% more income next year? So the question is: could startups like Airbnb or Uber happen to the charity sector too? And will their effect be comparable and cause disruptive change for charities as well?

2. In the commercial sector you often see mergers and takeovers. Would that be something that could happen in the charity sector, at the same scale? And if so, who would profit from that? When you look at takeovers in general, it’s often the acquirer who profits the most. From that point of view it would be easy to think that takeovers wouldn’t be that desirable. Having said that, when in conversation with donors we often experience that they can get confused by the fact that there are several charities that represent the same (or a similar) cause. They question if this is the most efficient way to create impact. What do you think…will mergers and takeovers happen in the charity sector in the upcoming 20 years?

3. Another trend is happening in the world of sports. For instance: soccer. Some clubs play at a high level and continue to do so, simply because they have the best players and a lot of money (or the other way around). Others always struggle to make just enough income to stay in the league they aim for. Sometimes a million- or billionaire saves the day and ‘buys’ a club. We’d like to call this toys for boys. Take Roman Abramovich for example, who bought Chelsea Football Club about ten years ago. Chelsea was having big financial problems, and Abramovich paid off their debts. He also invested largely in innovation, so that they could grow. With his money he saved Chelsea, but bought influence at the same time. What if a charity is in bad financial weather? Could that become a ‘toy for boys’ too? And in what way will this influence the future of our sector?

4. Although corporate social responsibility is not new, some corporates take it to a complete new level nowadays. Take TOMS for example. This company completely builds its brand on philanthropy, it seems. They do not only use sustainable and recycled material for their products, they also give back with every product they sell through their ‘One for One Movement’. For instance: if you buy a pair of shoes, they give a pair to a child in need. They say giving is in their DNA, which is coming very close to the positioning of charities. You could say that the ‘gap’ between corporate and charity is getting smaller as a result of this kind of CSR. In what way will this effect the future of charities, you think?

5. Our last example is focused on rebranding. Or: organizations reinventing themselves. For example Nokia, which was founded in the late 19th century in the forest and rubber industry. Actually, they reinvented themselves several times. They changed from wood and rubber to cable and computers. Only in the 1990s they started with mobile phones. A more recent example is Abercrombie & Fitch. When they saw their profits decline, they decided to change the brand. In stead of targeting ‘cool, good-looking people’ they chose to target a more mainstream audience. Could this be an option for charities too? Could total re-branding and/or repositioning be the solution for charities with decreasing income too?

With these 5 examples we hope to inspire you to think about what the charity sector will look like in 2035. We’d really appreciate it if you’d share your vision in the comments area below! Thanks in advance for taking the time to write down your comment.

Note to Dutch fundraisers:
Did you know you can win an award with sharing your vision on this theme? Check out this website to find out how you can get nominated for the Fundraising Talent Award.

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