Book Review: The Future of Nonprofits - Innovate and Thrive in the Digital Age
The authors’ bold statement in the first chapter is evidence by its title -- “Innovate or Die” -- where they cite examples of how social and cultural shifts have impacted NPOs greatly. Those who recognized the change and adapted quickly were strengthened while those who missed the boat were left on the shore wondering what happened.
The book reads like a primer for those venturing into the NPO space whether for the first time or as a seasoned veteran with an overlay of the structure of nonprofits. Organizational methods, adopted by many for-profit entities and designed to increase production and enhance efficiency are reviewed in textbook fashion. They line up the top three, and proceed to knock them all down by citing that “nonprofit work is not neat and tidy like a factory; it is people-driven and can be a bit messy.” While some steps of the big three methods may be useful, the suggestion is made that NPOs innovate new methods.
While the NPO goals and mission statement may remain intact, “recognizing that technology makes it easier for us to achieve our goals” is a central point throughout the book. Examples of how organizations use Foursquare, Second Life, Twitter and webinars seem second nature to the digital savvy of today, however, back in 2006-2009 they were cutting edge especially for NPOs. Tactics from NPOs such as the Red Cross, American Cancer Society, Brooklyn Museum and Charity:Water are listed as being innovative.
Neff and Moss dive deep into what they call the “three pillars” framework on which innovation is built: Awareness, Structure and Staffing. A chapter is devoted to each pillar where they drill down into the psyche of the NPO, and make suggestions on how to clean up the organization from the inside. Once in place, the pillars create a foundation on which to drive innovation.
Throughout the book many resources are exemplified for the reader to employ. These include:
- blogs and books to read
- people to follow online
- social media tools to use
The book stays true to its title with a couple chapters focused on the future of fundraising and communications. However, like so many books before it, the time spent outlining the problem and making the case for the need to change dominates the pages leaving little room for future casting. I realize books published today are based on the research of yesterday, but with change being the one constant, writers need to be challenged to write ahead of the curve to be more relevant.
Does this mean the book is not worthy of your time? Absolutely not! Neff and Moss present viable information for individuals looking to make change within their organizations and provide a blueprint on how to go about it. Also,the appendix provides useful instruments for effecting change. They alone may be worthy of your time and investment in the book.