Jennifer Chandler serves as the Vice President of the National Council of Nonprofits (Council of Nonprofits), the nation’s largest network of nonprofits. Though she began her professional life as an employment lawyer, she quickly transitioned into nonprofit work to become more personally involved in social justice.
Chandler volunteered at her local YMCA where her children were learning to swim. Due to her work experience, she was quickly recruited to lend advice to the Y and answer questions on behalf of the nonprofit organization. These questions alerted her to a need for her expertise, and she began volunteering with a nonprofit board-training organization that took her all across her state to teach nonprofit board members about their legal and fiduciary responsibilities as board members.
As Chandler transitioned into this work, she connected to other professionals online (this was in the early days of the internet), and taught herself the law of tax exempt organizations. Now, she has been a board member, foundation trustee, volunteer, and has worked for three national nonprofits.
In 2009, Chandler began her role as Vice President of the National Council of Nonprofits. Part of her work includes identifying trends that affect all charitable nonprofits. For many years, this took the form of an annual trend report that the Council of Nonprofits published, focusing on a look ahead at the next year.
“I look at trends that affect operations, and the many influences on nonprofits, volunteers, and board members,” Chandler says. Recently, the Council of Nonprofits published an article highlighting hot topics for 2018. One of the goals of all the Council of Nonprofits’ communications is to help nonprofits see what is coming so they can be prepared to meet any approaching challenges.
“Being heads down and focusing on your mission is valuable, but there is also need for awareness of the bigger picture so that you are not caught off guard,” Chandler says. One major trend the Council of Nonprofits predicts for 2018 is a re-assessment of the tax incentives that affect charitable giving because of the new federal tax law. Total giving has risen in the past few years, but the percentage of households that give to charity is going down.
“Being heads down and focusing on your mission is valuable, but there is also need for awareness of the bigger picture so that you are not caught off guard.” – Jennifer Chandler
Chandler suggests that this trend is grounded in an increasing income disparity among households. In addition, some individuals are “giving” (investing, really) in nondeductible causes, like Kickstarter campaigns that support for-profit but socially conscious cases.The Council of Nonprofits identified other key issues for 2018 that include the importance of nonprofits having sexual harassment policies and preparedness/contingency plans for natural disasters and other crises.
Tracking changes that are occurring the sector, Chandler identified some developments that she hopes to see in the future. One particular aspect of the nonprofit sector that she would like to see change is the power dynamic between those with money and those seeking funding.
“Those with money may have unrealistic expectations of what their money will do and the percentage of their gift that will go directly to the cause, versus give the nonprofit the needed foundation to advance its mission,” Chandler says. To bring this change about, she suggests candid conversations and honest relationships between grant recipients and foundations, and between nonprofits and their donors, which will be more productive than power-laden conditional relationships.
“Those with money may have unrealistic expectations of what their money will do and the percentage of their gift that will go directly to the cause, versus give the nonprofit the needed foundation to advance its mission.” – Jennifer Chandler
“I hope that nonprofits will approach the power dynamic with grantmakers, the government, and donors, with new patience and new hope, and that those with money will be able to listen and understand the challenges that nonprofits have to overcome to advance their missions,” Chandler concludes. For now, she and the Council of Nonprofits continue to follow policy developments and other trends in the sector and help nonprofits prepare themselves for whatever changes are to come. You can stay connected with the trends the Council of Nonprofits follows by subscribing to their free newsletter.