The Future of Work in the Non-Profit Sector

By Rachel Adrian



This past week I attended another excellent CCVO Connections Conference. The conference featured a number of keynote speakers looking at future trends. Today we’re pleased to share with you a new trend – the changing definition of work and its implications for the non-profit sector.Technological advances, innovative new business models and dramatic changes in demographics have had an immense effect on where, when and how we work. This is highly evident in the private sector, and businesses have made some very significant moves to adapt. But what will the future of work mean for non-profits and other community organizations?A recent report, Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint 2016 by Lucy Bernholz, describes the changes taking place in the modern, non-profit workplace. Non-profits will have to consider how they can take advantage and adapt to these trends that are shaping the way we work.

People Want Flexibility:

Popular sharing economy services like Airbnb, Uber and Car2Go demonstrate how important flexible, easy options are for people in today’s world. Technology has put a world of convenience at the touch of our fingertips, and people love it! The private sector has already seen major strides in terms of the flexible workplace.Telus for example, encourages employees to work from home or mobile and has a flexible scheduling component that allows people to work at times that work best for them, not the other way around. Not only does this make employees happier and more likely to stay, but it cuts down on real estate costs and has significant environmental benefits for the business.The future of work will see the non-profit sector adapting to the flexibility needs of both employees and volunteers.

Increased Collaboration


Along with flexibility, people also want more collaboration from their employers. Working away in isolated cubicles isn’t appealing (or efficient!) for younger generations, especially millennials. They prefer to work collaboratively, bouncing ideas off one another and sharing insights.This trend can be seen in the rise of shared workspaces and collaboration areas in offices around the country. Not only is it changing what our offices look like, but how we work as well. A move to a more collaborative workplace is rapidly changing the way we work. Check out how The Commons Calgary is offering flexible, co-working spaces at affordable prices.

A Move to the Freelance Economy


Another major change in the future of work is the move to a freelance economy. More and more, people are choosing, or are forced to work as contractors, and piece together multiple smaller commitments to form their ‘job’ rather than working a traditional 9-5. This is leading to a new term called “precarious jobs”. Recent statistics have shown that over one-third of the US population works as freelancers, without traditional, full-time jobs. This allows for a flexible schedule, a wide variety of interesting projects, and other added benefits of working for one’s self. Many people are using this to prioritize a better work life balance and freelancing is an excellent option to give people a little more control over their schedule – even if they don’t chose it.Rather than waiting for jobs to come to them, people are being innovative in seeking out the kind of work they want. Non-profits will have to ensure they have positioned themselves in a way that is attractive to these ‘freelance entrepreneurs’. In this new economy, the top talent will have freedom to pick and choose the contracts that they want, and attracting this talent will become even more of a challenge.This great white paper from 2014 details the state of the freelance economy and how it’s changing the way we work, along with recommendations for companies and non-profits looking to market themselves to freelancers. 

What does it all mean for the non-profit sector?

People today want a lot from their workplaces. They want flexibility in terms of when and where they work but they also want stability for their families. They want truly meaningful and impactful work, in a wide variety of interesting and collaborative industries. The way we work is also changing with the rise in freelancing and new models for engagement.Increases in social enterprises, B Corporations and social purpose businesses, the need for non-profits to differentiate themselves and highlight their true value to potential employees is stronger than ever. Redefining the meaning of work is a big challenge and non-profit sector is just beginning to adapt. We look forward to seeing the transformation of all kinds of businesses to fit this new nature of work. 

“We are not asking organizations to do something different from their normal business; we are asking them to do their normal business differently.”- Kofi Annan