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17 posts from April 2012

2012 State of the Sector Survey

April 03, 2012

NFF-logoThe U.S. economy seems to be on the mend, the stock market is on a tear, and the 2012 presidential election looks as if it'll be contested by two relatively pragmatic moderates.

Business as usual, right?

Not according to the Nonprofit Finance Fund's 2012 State of the Nonprofit Sector survey.

The survey reveals that nonprofits, especially frontline service providers, continue to face significant challenges two years into what is supposed to be an economic recovery but for millions of Americans feels like something altogether different.

Among the survey's findings:

  • 85 percent of nonprofits experienced an increase in demand for services in 2011; (compared to 77 percent in 2010, 71 percent in 2009, and 73 percent in 2008);
  • 88 percent expect to see an increase in demand for services in 2012;
  • 87 percent don't expect their financial outlook to improve in 2012;
  • 58 percent of human service organizations were unable to meet demand in 2011; 60 percent say they won’t be able to meet demand in 2012;
  • 56 percent of human service providers received federal government funding or contracts in 2011; 69 percent received state or local funding;
  • 52 percent reported late payments from the federal government; 62 percent said state or local government payments were late.

Of course, if House Republicans have their way, the situation almost certainly will get worse before it gets better. As reported today by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 62 percent of the cuts in the so-called Ryan budget passed by the House last week will involve programs for low-income Americans, while 37 percent of the proposed tax cuts in the plan will benefit Americans earning more than $1 million. Translation: Less money for social programs, more Americans falling into poverty, greater demand for frontline nonprofit services.

"Nonprofits are adapting to continued economic pressure in all sorts of creative and substantive ways, but for many these are stopgap measures that won't make up for the bigger forces at play: decreasing government support, the unwillingness of some private foundations to evolve funding practices, and a lack of necessary support from some boards," said Nonprofit Finance Fund CEO Antony Bugg-Levine. "We must rethink the way we fund solutions to our most pressing problems."

How we might do that is the subject of a post I hope to have up later in the week.

In the meantime, you can do a deeper dive on the survey data with the NFF Survey Analyzer, download a summary of the results in brochure or PowerPoint form, or download the full results in an Excel spreadsheet.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Weekend Link Roundup (March 31-April 1, 2012)

April 01, 2012

Palm_sundayOur weekly roundup of new and noteworthy posts from and about the nonprofit sector....


"[T]elling a good story is only part of the equation," writes Kim St. John-Stevenson, communications officer at the St. Luke's Foundation of Cleveland, in a recent Getting Attention blog post. If they want to tell a great story -- and what organization doesn't? -- "nonprofits must also look to use data and outcomes....Great stories are a precise blend of outcomes (conveyed in tangible data) together with a healthy dose of good storytelling and visual imagery."

On her Non-Profit Marketing blog, Katya Andresen shares a couple of data points, in infographic form, from NTEN and consulting firm M+R's soon-to-be-released annual e-benchmarking study.


Atlantic Wire reporter Jen Doll takes a closer look at how private secondary schools in New York City are boosting their fundraising results by "mining" parents' personal data. "[Y]ucky or not," writes Doll, "good marketing brings results. School donations in New York City have increased jawdroppingly (268 percent) in the last ten years, for a median donation per school of $1.7 million, up from $462,341...."


Good interview on the Global Impact Investing Network site with Rockefeller Foundation head Judith Rodin about the foundation's catalytic role in the impact investing space and the next phase of its efforts to build the industry.

International Affairs/Development

On the WSJ's Wealth Report blog, Robert Frank asks readers whether British prime minister David Cameron's budget proposal -- which, among other things, "would cap the tax relief for wealthy givers at 25 percent of their annual income, or £50,000, whichever is higher" –- would reduce overall giving. Proposals floated by the Obama administration to do something similar in this country have been non-starters. What do you think? Is charitable giving by the wealthy largely driven by tax policy? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

Heading to Africa last week, Bill Gates shared his itinerary with readers of his Gates Notes blog. In Zambia, one of his stops, he'll be meeting with key partners to discuss malaria-eradication efforts there. "Malaria deaths are way down from their peak in Zambia. Bed nets have been very effective. But we're still looking for answers to some questions about them," writes the ever-curious Gates. "How much do they help long term? How quickly do they wear out?...[D]o malaria deaths eventually rebound, as we've seen somewhat in Zambia (particularly in the north)? Why the increase -- is it because people didn't use the nets, because they’re torn, because mosquitoes adapted, or simply because mosquito numbers vary from year to year?"


On her blog, the Nonprofiteer makes a case for spending down rather than giving "out amounts insufficient to make any significant change" in tackling the world's most pressing challenges. "No, philanthropy isn't supposed to be society's primary source of support," she writes, "but while people are busy starving government so they can drown it in the bathtub, private wealth can and should step into the breach. Consider," she adds,

the contributions of the Gates Foundations to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Can anyone really argue it would be better to hold back on eradicating those diseases, in case there’s some bigger plague later on? If there is, as AIDS itself demonstrates, we’ll mobilize and raise money for it. Meanwhile, in case of every ailment, time is our enemy: the later we provide resources, the harder it will be for those resources to have impact. Thus wasting money is a less significant risk than failing to spend enough to make a difference....

Earlier this week the Council of Foundations announced Ocean Conservancy CEO Vikki Spruill as its new president and CEO, effective July 1. Spruill's background "is an interesting mix of two intersecting professional streams," ocean conservation and public relations, writes NPQ columnist Rick Cohen, and her new colleagues undoubtedly will be asking how she plans to strengthen the trade association, build membership, and stabilize and improve its finances. But Cohen has a few questions of his own for Spruill:

  • What can and should philanthropy do to address environmental justice issues?
  • What is the role of the council in addressing the nonprofit sector’s multiyear, recession-induced revenue shortfall?
  • What, if anything, does the council plan to do to address the concerns of progressives who increasingly see some big foundations as part of the one percent?
  • Will she revive efforts to push foundations to pay more attention to rural needs?
  • And will she take a position on whether the foundation community should be monitoring and reporting on aspects of racial equity in its grantmaking, staffing, and leadership?

Tough questions and a tough job. We'll be rooting for her.

Over at Co.Exist, senior editor Ariel Schwartz talks with Global Philanthropy Forum head Jane Wales about Google, Pepsi, and the future of giving.

Social Entrepreneurship

In his Forbes.com column, Tom Watson takes a closer look at online giving platform GlobalGiving, whose co-founder and president, Mari Kuraishi, was in Japan last week to check on the progress of earthquake and tsunami recovery efforts there. While GlobalGiving itself has come a long way since its debut as a kind of "eBay of philanthropy" a decade ago, its success, Watson reminds us,

provides a central lesson for social entrepreneurs who look to for-profit business success stories as pure models that can be transferred to the world causes and development. The path is slower, the route can be even more crooked, and even the goals can shift....


On the Transparency Talk blog, Janet Camarena, director of the Foundation Center's San Francisco library, commends the Omidyar Network's David Sasaki for committing to be the "most transparent grant-maker in philanthropy" by publishing grants data on his blog within fifteen days of the signing of a grant agreement. At the same time, notes Camarena, even with Sasaki's and ON's commitment to greater transparency, ON only meets fourteen of the twenty-three transparency and accountability criteria listed on the Foundation Center's Glasspockets site. Like other grantmakers, she adds, ON is

is lacking what many in the field have found the most challenging: sharing details about things like an assessment of [its] overall performance, a centralized knowledge base of lessons learned from previous program evaluations, details about its investment policies, and information about its diversity practices...."

That's it for now. What did we miss? Drop us a line at rnm@foundationcenter.org. And have a great week!

-- The Editors

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

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