December 23, 2013; Pew Research

If you want your board to have substantive discussions, some say to throw some red meat on the table. There is plenty of it out there, and discussions of organizational direction should never be confined to strategic planning processes. So what if you chose some content from the many studies and public opinion polls available? Even if the last thing you want to do is to follow public opinion, it is useful to have conversations about those elements of your operating environment. For instance, the latest from Pew Research tells us that a majority of Americans own a smartphone, support gay marriage, approve of marijuana legalization, favor American isolationism and feel the federal government impedes personal rights.

Once you’re on the page linked above, you can drill down into each linked report. Then share them with your board, your staff, your volunteers, and your donors/funders and start the conversation.

What do these statistics say to your organization about your service delivery or fundraising model? Or how your nonprofit recruits volunteers? Or how you communicate your successes and your needs? Does this report change how you could engage the community, both online and in person?

More data milestones from the report:

  • The American public doesn’t just “have a cell phone”; we are moving rapidly into a smartphone society. It’s time to check if your website is readable on a smartphone. It’s time to ensure that donors can access your stories via their phone. Don’t wait for 2015.
  • If 50 percent of the public cites the Internet as their main source for information, are they going to your website and being turned off by a lack of updates or lack of pictures?
  • Of interest to all faith-based nonprofits: The percent of Catholics claiming a strong religious identity is at a 40-year low. If your nonprofit relies upon a faith-based community, what can you do now to ensure a strong connection now and continuing engagement over time?
  • The highest percentage of the U.S. population is foreign-born since 1920 (approximately 12.5 percent). Who is moving into your community, and what traditions are they bringing? Philanthropy, the giving of money to a nonprofit, is an American accepted practice, but not all cultures give in those ways. They give in other ways. It may be time to foster new relationships and build new traditions in your service area.

These data milestones each tell a unique story for your nonprofit. Will your nonprofit see them as an opportunity or a threat? Which milestones are the most telling for your organization?—Jeanne Allen