Cause Future

The First Seven Years...

As 2008 and all of its infinite possibility dawns upon us, the desire to know what lies ahead can be all-consuming. One of the most effective ways I have found to plan for the future is to look back at recent history as market forces, major events and macro trends often reliably shape things to come.

Incredible change has transpired in just seven short years. And, as such, the new millennium is a great starting point to examine and prepare for shifts in business, nonprofit and individual interpretations of cause. Following is a brief overview of what I believe are some of the most influential happenings that continue to reverberate and will likely impact society and the industry tomorrow.

2001 – Think Glocal, Act Glocal: At the beginning of the century, homeland security and the growing imbalance between rich and poor nations topped public priorities. September 11th brought about sentiment change towards issues “at home” as we marched towards war. 9/11 gave "unprecedented universal concern" a new meaning. From this, a true balance of domestic and foreign societal needs re-emerged as a top priority for donors.

2002 – Protect and Serve: A sluggish economy, paired with new restrictions on philanthropic investments to eradicate direct or indirect support of potential terrorist organizations contributed to intense scrutiny of the end-use of charitable contributions. From this, a new crop of policy specialists and regulatory consultants emerged, as well as new demands for accountability from historically “hands off” donors.

2003 – Anytime, Anywhere, Anyone: Spurred by a remarkable shift in general public confidence in online giving and a huge upsurge in electronic charitable appeals, e-giving surged in 2003. Many groups posted double- and triple-digit percentage gains and wide-spread NGO acceptance that the web is a tool for much more than one-way communications.

2004 – Org. or Inc.?: With corporate cause branding more than two decades old, nonprofits respond in-kind creating new, focused mass appeals meant to encourage corporate donors to fund strategic concerns of the organization, versus targeting gifts based on corporate priorities. Race for the Cure, Go Red for Women and Thanks and Giving lead the way.

2005 – Socially-Funded Security: Natural disasters cause record-breaking need. On the heals of the Asian Tsunami, the Pakistani earthquake and Hurricane Katrina is destruction and suffering that exceeds governmental humanitarian capacity. The impact of personal and corporate responsibility transcends and changes viewpoints on the role of governments as the sole and/or ultimate caretaker.

2006 – The Have Nots: After more than a year of the international media broadcasting unfathomable living conditions and stories of survival in the face of disaster, attention migrates to those who have not been affected by a single disaster, but rather a desperate strife that has lasted for decades. Africa aid efforts such as YouthAids and The One Campaign are joined by Product (RED) in their fight to shed light and hope on a continent in crisis.

2007 – PhilanthropreNation: User-generated giving surges. Whether the world’s wealthiest “philanthropreneurs” are alleviating suffering while making a profit or ordinary individuals are signing micro-loans to villagers halfway around the world through Kiva.org, self-directed and co-created giving soar. This “doing it my way” philosophy leads to ground-breaking social solutions in some cases, as well as questionable duplication of efforts in others.

It is amazing what change a few years can bring – technology proliferation, personalization, skepticism, accountability, entrepreneurialism, ROI demands, globalization, and above all, incredible compassion. This window to the recent past is opening up to show a glimmer of some of the incredible things that lie ahead. As you have insights to the past, present or future, please share to help continue to advance the field.

- Kristian Darigan, Former Vice President, Cause Branding