Peering Forward – Some of the trends

What are a few of the changes today that impact the faith-based nonprofit community?  Barna Group has a few ideas.

David Kinnaman had a great article in the Winter 2010 issue of Outcomes from Christian Leadership Alliance.

He describes what he calls the ‘new context’ that is already in place.  One of them is the fade in popularity amongst younger people of high visibility leaders.  He graphs the positive public opinion of a variety of secular and religious leaders.  Great charts – check them out in the article. 

Two things jump out at me.  First, the leaders in the faith community that have been around a long time (Billy Graham, Pat Robertson, James Dobson) have a high positive opinion amongst those aged 65+.  That drops off with each younger age reaching surprising low-level of positive opinion amongst those aged 18-26.

Second thing that jumps out from eyeballing the graphs is based on comparing the positive-opinion-curve for 9 secular people to the graphs of 9 faith community leaders.  Eight of the faith-community leaders have lower positive opinions amongst all age levels than all but one of the secular names. 

Let me rephrase that:  Across all age spans (18-26, 27-45, 46-64, 65+) Britney Spears has higher positive opinion ratings than Robertson, Dobson, Franklin Graham, Osteen, Warren, Colson, Hybels, and Andy Stanley. 

Another trend Kinnaman mentions is for-profit entities working in areas that are generally considered to be the area where NPOs serve.  Two examples:  First, TOMS Shoes, which donates a free pair of shoes to needy children for every pair they sell.  Second, the University of Phoenix has around half a million customers paying top dollar for formal, higher education.  Until a few years ago, that area was served by state universities and private NPO institutions.  So now in addition to having ‘competition’ from other NPOs, you have to deal with for-profit entities seeking the attention and dollars of your constituency.

Like it or not, that is the environment we are working in.   Whether those are good trends or not is irrelevant. 

We need to understand the changing landscape.  Then we need to work with it.  That is the subject of the second half of the Kinnaman article.

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