research friday

Research Friday: Government contracting part II: Adapting in an era of less

 

posted by
Anjali Deshmukh,
Director

and
Angela Francis,
Manager
Nonprofit Finance Fund

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series,we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Conducted in January and February 2013, Nonprofit Finance Fund’s 2013 State of the Sector survey assessed the financial and management challenges facing 5,983 organizations across the country. As income disparity continues to grow, many nonprofits are struggling to meet overwhelming community need amid the stark realities of funding cuts. Many are recognizing that this dynamic may be here to stay.

When NFF began this survey in 2009, many of our clients were in “triage” mode: they were dealing with mission and finance-related emergencies, relying on short-term coping strategies—like reserve depletion and staff furloughs—to make ends meet until the financial crisis was over. Five years later, temporary stimulus funding has come and gone, replaced instead by ongoing cuts to government funding. Organizations reliant on government funding continue to experience a “death by a thousand cuts,” says NFF client Sharon Stapel, Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project. “In isolation, the cuts may seem small,” says Stapel, “but over time, they speak to a larger, more serious trend that will have an impact on the health, happiness, and safety of our communities.”

Research Friday: Government contracting in the new normal

 

posted by
Anjali Deshmukh,
Associate Director

and
Angela Francis,
Senior Associate
Nonprofit Finance Fund

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series,we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Nonprofit Finance Fund’s (NFF) 2013 State of the Sector survey explored a variety of financial and management challenges facing organizations across the country. The core story, as told by nearly 6,000 respondents, is of a fragile balancing act between rising community need and shrinking or stagnant resources for social programs. Particularly in the last several years, in the wake of the financial crisis, organizations have struggled with a variety of challenges related to government support.

In the United States, we rely on government to provide key economic supports. We expect the federal, state, and local governments to play a role in educating our children, helping communities rebuild after natural disasters, and improving our collective quality of life. To deliver on this mandate, services like public education are administered by the government, while many other complementary programs - such as job training and placement - are outsourced to nonprofits. According to a 2010 Urban Institute study, nonprofit organizations (with records of income data) reported that nearly one-third of their revenue sources came from the government.

Research Friday: The gift

posted by
Dianna Schwartz
,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna
Executive Director
Military Assistance Project

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Note: This article will focus on international development from my perspective working in an African country, although the questions raised are pertinent to any “developed” country or continent’s relationship to a “developing” region.

Research Friday: Transforming the mindset from charitable giving to the social economy

 

posted by
Patsy Kraeger, Ph.D.

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

“The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.” - Stephen Baker, a technology journalist in a recent NY Times Blog.

Last year I wrote a Research Friday blog post that considered the impact of civic engagement on the economy. I discussed research that found a correlation between civic engagement and the unemployment rate. Although the findings were not conclusive, in states where civic engagement did not decline, employment rates were more resilient and stable.

The term social economy is used more in Canada, Europe and Latin America. The term captures economic growth as inclusive of both commercial and non-commercial activities, including paid and unpaid work. Increasingly, policy and social change has been studied through the lens of the social economy, and there is now a developed scholarly literature in this field (much of it through the European Research Network).

But what is the social economy in the American context? Who is discussing the social economy outside of academic networks? Is the social economy just another buzzword or a new paradigm?

Dr. Lucy Bernholz, in a report coproduced by Grantcraft, Stanford PACS and the Stanford Social Innovation Review, titled Philanthropy and the Social Economy: Blueprint for 2013 (hereafter, “the Blueprint”) challenges readers to think about a new paradigm which looks at all “private resources for public good” (p.2), instead of just private charitable gifts to nonprofit organizations. This is an important step in developing a new language and dialogue that shifts away from the “philanthropic-nonprofit” paradigm (p.2). This is exciting!

Research Friday: Your story matters. Please share it with us

posted by
Jen Talansky
Vice President, Knowledge
and Communications

Nonprofit Finance Fund


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit expert to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Government funding hovers on the edge of a fiscal cliff. The economy and housing markets continue to tremble. And true natural disasters are sowing human tragedy across the globe.

We depend on the nonprofit sector to help alleviate these problems. Yet, in a time of so much uncertainty and such great need, many struggle to respond. How are our fellow nonprofits doing it? We want to know, and we want to share this knowledge with the world.

Nonprofit Finance Fund is conducting its fifth annual State of the Sector survey to find out what nonprofits and the communities they serve need most. This anonymous survey asks nonprofit leaders about the management and financial challenges they’re facing as they work tirelessly on mission. In a sector that often lacks data, this survey illustrates real-time financial and operational trends.

We share the aggregated results of the survey with foundations, government entities, media, associations, advocacy organizations and nonprofits themselves. The results improve grantmaking practices, help shape conversations on the needs of the social sector, and provide a rich source of data.

Research Friday: Does your nonprofit have an outcome-driven culture?

 

posted by
 Karina Lungo,
Research Assistant,
ASU Lodestar Center


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

With the recent scarcity of grant funding, excellent program evaluation practices are becoming a distinguishing element of effective and grant-competitive nonprofit organizations. However, studies reveal that most nonprofits still view evaluation as exclusively about program outputs, and they often perceive data gathering as a resource drain and distraction.1 Even those who are eager to conduct evaluations often lack the funding and knowledge to evaluate their programs appropriately.

There are different approaches to evaluating a program. Some organizations gather data such as program expenditures, customer satisfaction or program outputs (e.g., the number of individuals receiving the services, number of trainings provided, number of animals rescued, etc.). However, increasingly nonprofits are moving to the practice of outcome evaluation. Program outcomes are defined as the expected and/or actual benefits that program participants will receive. Outcomes usually imply changes in behavior, condition, skills, attitudes or knowledge in the individual, community or other target population. Outcome evaluation therefore involves the verification that program goals are being met. Other evaluation forms include: process evaluation, which requires that specific program activities and procedures be reviewed in order to help explain why a program worked or did not work; and program monitoring, which uses in-process measures to track whether a program is being executed as designed. More sophisticated methods of evaluation include random controlled trials (RCTs) or the use of a logic model.6

Grant funding and the proper knowledge to conduct program evaluation are common issues:

Research Friday: Lessons in board governance

posted by
  Sharon Brooks,
 Administrative Assistant

 Fiesta Bowl


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar or practitioner to highlight current nonprofit research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

In April of 2011, a story broke regarding The Central Asia Institute, a nonprofit organization. Although it had been in existence for 13 years, the organization had no audited financial statements, had only three board members (including the executive director), was not clear about how donor money was being spent, and had a clear conflict of interest with the executive director promoting personal book sales through the nonprofit. The truth about the Central Asia Institute was revealed in several high-profile journals and newspapers such as the Harvard Business Review, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Wall Street Journal, with articles titled “Lessons from the ‘Three Cups of Tea’ Controversy,” “‘Three Cups of Tea’ Scandal Offers Lessons for Charities and Trustees,” and “Lessons for Donors from ‘Three Cups of Tea’,” respectively.

The Central Asia Institute is only one nonprofit organization that has fallen from grace due to poor nonprofit governance. The United Way and the American Red Cross are two well-known, large organizations that have also experienced controversy in recent years1.

Thankfully, a recent survey conducted by BoardSource in 2012 shows signs of increased governance among nonprofits2. Through surveying chief executive officers from all 50 states, BoardSource reported the following key findings:

Research Friday: Arizona’s seniors: The latest profile of volunteering behavior

posted by
 Carlton Yoshioka, Ph.D.,
Professor and Director
of Academic Programs
ASU Lodestar Center

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

Recent research findings by Christopher Einolf and Susan Chambre (2011) provided empirical evidence of the strong influence of both formal and informal social networks on volunteering. They found that individuals actively involved in activities with social organizations were more likely to volunteer. Previously, the positive impact of religious congregations and social networks on volunteering was found by Park and Smith (2000). This strong relationship was also evident for informal social networks where friend and neighbor interactions significantly increased the likelihood of volunteering (Bekkers, 2005; Okun, Pugliese, Rook, 2007). What about volunteers in Arizona and particularly senior volunteers? Are Arizona seniors influenced by both formal and informal social networks to volunteer? Do socioeconomic characteristics, health, and social isolation of an aging individual limit the likelihood of volunteering?

These challenging questions were addressed by the 2010 Arizona Health Survey sponsored by the St. Luke’s Health Initiative. Over 8,000 adults were surveyed about their physical, mental and social well-being. Fortunately, over 2,000 adults over 65 years old responded to the survey. Dr. Lili Wang and I analyzed the sample of seniors to determine the impact of social context on senior volunteers in Arizona. The average age of the sample was 75 years old and 64.5% of the sample was female. 24% of households had an annual income between $30,000 and $49,999. About one fourth of the seniors (24%) had a high school diploma or equivalent, followed by a four-year college degree (15%). Most of the seniors (86%) did not work. Close to half of the respondents were married (48%) and only a fraction of them (2.4%) had grandchild under 18 living in house.

The results of this survey support the positive influence of social context on Arizona’s senior volunteers. The findings show that seniors are more likely to volunteer when they have more friends to rely on spend time with others more often, help friends and neighbors, and participate in social clubs or religious and other organizations. In terms of socioeconomic status, the results show that higher levels of education and self reported positive health significantly increased seniors’ chance of formal volunteering; however, age, gender, income level, employment status, and having children had no effect.

Employee engagement: Keeping the right people

posted by
Dianna Schwartz
,
Public Allies Arizona Alumna
Executive Director
Military Assistance Project

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar, student, or professional to highlight current research reports or studies and discuss how they can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice.

A few months ago, I was embroiled in a weeks-long interaction with one of the largest government agencies. As I sought to work out the kinks of my issue, my calls were shuttled from office to office and officer to officer. It seemed that my issue might linger indefinitely with this shall-go-unnamed agency, until one day, when a customer service representative took me off hold and turned out to be an especially attentive, thorough, and service-minded individual. She gathered my information, gauged where I was in the process, and assisted me through the close of the issue. At the end, I thanked her profusely for her assistance, and hung up mulling over the question of engagement. Why is it that some employees DO feel this commitment to their work, and others suffer from a sense of disengagement that cripples their effectiveness as employees?

Last year, Opportunity Knocks commissioned a report1 to evaluate this question of engagement across the nonprofit workforce. They sought to understand individual commitment to mission, management, and emotion in the workplace.

What they found was optimistic: nonprofit employees care. Their findings substantiate the belief that nonprofit employees believe in the organization’s mission and want to contribute to the advancement of that mission. 86% do extra work that isn’t expected of them, and 89% feel their work contributes to carrying out the mission of the organization. 84% of employees surveyed enjoy working for their organization because they believe in its mission and values.

Research Friday: Tracking trends in nonprofit benefit practices


Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing series, we invite a nonprofit scholar or practitioner to highlight a research report or study and discuss how it can inform and improve day-to-day nonprofit practice. We welcome your comments and feedback.

postedby
Stephanie La Loggia, M.A.

Manager of Knowledge Resources, Research and Academic Affairs,
ASU Lodestar Center


As many of you know, we are now officially collecting data for the forthcoming edition of our Nonprofit Compensation and Benefits Report. This will be the ASU Lodestar Center’s fifth such publication; we released the first one (then entitled the “Wage and Salary Report”) back in 2001!

A lot has changed in the nonprofit world in the eleven years since our first report. The recent economic recession has been particularly challenging for nonprofits, bringing a tightening of resources coupled with an elevated need for services. And since nonprofit services are almost always provided and organized by people, these challenges and conditions affect organizations’ human resource practices — sometimes dramatically. So for this report, we’ve expanded our questions on nonprofit benefits practices, including questions asking how nonprofits are responding to various issues.


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