Pete’s Perspectives: A Look at the State of the Nonprofit Sector

Earlier this year, we encouraged local nonprofits to have their voices heard through the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2018 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey. NFF released the results of the survey last week, reflecting the perspectives of more than 3,400 participants nationwide representing nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Here are some of the topline themes that came from the survey – responses where 60% or more of respondents agreed with current sector trends:

  • Nearly 90% of respondents said the demand for services is rising faster than nonprofits’ ability to meet it;
  • Achieving financial sustainability continues to be a challenge – with competition from other sectors for talent and compensation pressures being key issues; and
  • More than 2/3 of respondents said uncertainty and government policy change at the Federal level was making life harder for the clients they served, especially people who are poor.

 All was not bleak, however – and some positive trends also came through:

  • 60% of nonprofits plan to increase organizational diversity to better reflect the clients that they serve, both in terms of staff and board governance;
  • Nonprofits are resilient and creatively responding to current challenges, with about 2/3 intending to expand services and collaborate with other nonprofits to do so; and
  • Nonprofits are frugal and effective stewards of resources – reflected by the fact that 75% of respondents’ organizations either broke even or ran a surplus in their most recent fiscal period.

 The NFF survey is a great tool for benchmarking current trends and the data can be used to make a point. Just this month, human services providers in New York City banded together and used this data to advocate for improvements to nonprofit contracting rules used by city government. One city department was late in approving contracts 100% of the time, and 75% of city nonprofits experienced delays across government agencies – much higher than is typical for survey respondents across the country. We hope that our nonprofit colleagues are able to use this data in ways that help make their work easier and more impactful. If you have the time, I encourage you to give the survey results a read.

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