Skip to main content

“The future isn’t something that happens to you, it is something that you create with the decisions that you make today.” – Trista Harris

Trista HarrisHow many times have you dreamed of seeing into the future? Did you know you could make this dream come true? By the time you finish reading this article, you will move beyond dreaming!

Earlier this year we had the opportunity to meet Trista Harris. In a group session she impressed us as being clear and focused. Little did we know she was “future focused.” When we had a moment to talk over dinner, our minds – and hearts – were opened. Trista is more than a philanthropy professional, mother, wife, and community leader. She is a futurist. Needless to say, when she mentioned that our first question was “what is a futurist?”

We followed up with her to learn more, and we share her words with you to encourage you to set the bar higher. No more three-year plans – Trista believes you are wise enough to think what’s ahead in the next 50 years. Yes, we said 50 years! Read on to learn more.

Saad&Shaw: What is a futurist?

Trista Harris: A futurist is a person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends. I am a philanthropic futurist, so I focus my predictions on issues that impact the nonprofit and foundation sector.

Saad&Shaw: What do nonprofit leaders need to consider when looking at the future and the possibilities that may lie before them?

Trista Harris: I think it is important for nonprofit leaders to understand that the future isn’t something that happens to you, it is something that you create with the decisions that you make today. Nonprofits are in a great position to create a better future for us all.

Saad&Shaw: Life seems so unpredictable! How can nonprofits learn to “predict the future?”

Trista Harris: Make time for the future in your present. I suggest that you spend 5% of your week or two hours a week thinking about five to fifty years in the future for your organization or the issues that you care about. You can read articles or just spend some time imagining what that future will look like to help you make better decisions in the present.

Saad&Shaw: How does using a futurist lens impact strategic planning, fund development, and fundraising planning?

Trista Harris: Futurism is a critical strategic planning tool. I lead organizations through a future visioning process where they develop a shared model of their ideal future, and then they identify signals of the future that already exist in their organization. This helps staff, board, and community align their efforts around a shared vision. For fundraising, I think that we should spend more time talking about what the world would look like if the problem that we cared about was solved. We spend too much time loving the problem in our grant applications and fundraising campaigns.

Saad&Shaw: How can a board member or executive director introduce futurist thinking into the life of a nonprofit?

Trista Harris: Take time at every board meeting or staff meeting to talk a trend that may impact the organization in the future. Future thinking is a muscle that only grows with use.

Saad&Shaw: What results have you witnessed through the use of futurist thinking within nonprofits or the philanthropic sector?

Trista Harris: Organizations that develop a 50-year vision for their work often find that critical pieces of that vision come to pass in two-to-five years, instead of 50 because they have done the hard work of creating a shared vision of success.

Saad&Shaw: What are the three words of wisdom you have to offer our readers?

Trista Harris: Stop, Look , and Go. That’s the framework for becoming a more future focused leader. Learn more here.

Saad&Shaw: Please tell us about your upcoming book and how people can early order.

Trista Harris: An increasing rate of change makes the already challenging business of doing good, even more difficult. Small nonprofits, national service agencies, foundations, think tanks, and social entrepreneurs all are trying to make the world a better place but are using yesterday’s information to do so. What if the social sector could predict the future and prepare for the trends and coming realities that will impact their work? They can, using the tools found in “FutureGood”. I’ve written this book in an accessible form and hope it will become a must-read for savvy social sector executives, thought leaders, journalists, and philanthropists. It will be released in late October, but you can be one of the first to pre-order.

Trista speaks to audiences around the world about how to be a more future-focused leader. Learn more at

Copyright 2018 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

Let’s think about the future: it will arrive whether we do or don’t.