ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Friday, January 20, 2012 - 2:01pm

posted by
Jen Talansky,
Vice President, Knowledge
and Communications,

Nonprofit Finance Fund

Welcome to Research Friday! As part of a continuing weekly series, each Friday 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.

In our professional and personal lives, we are all asked to take a dozen or more surveys every year. At work, I receive email surveys on everything from how we use social media to how we like the services of our vendors. At home, I get opinion questionnaires from organizations ranging from political parties to movie ticket vendors.

Being the recipient of so many surveys, I pick and choose which I respond to. No doubt you do as well. As the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) embarks on its fourth annual nonprofit State of the Sector Survey, I hope you will choose to spend a few minutes of your valuable and busy work time responding to ours. Here’s why.

Nonprofits are our social safety net, particularly now, during the hard times our country continues to experience. They help and enrich people and communities, some of whom face dire health, housing, or food access circumstances. Yet many of the nonprofits that Arizonians rely on for a just and vibrant society are themselves in dire circumstances. Revenue is down, particularly from government funders, while service demand is up (77% saw a rise in service demand last year, on top of increases in service demand from previous years).

As we’ve seen with the rise in democratic political movements across the globe, there is power in the collective voice. We do this survey because nonprofits need to raise their collective voice, and the survey provides a powerful vehicle to do so. Last year we heard from close to 2,000 nonprofits from all states and sectors. We learned of their cash challenges, their rising service demand, and of the limits to many of their funder conversations. We heard of the extraordinary measures they took—one Executive Director even took out a mortgage on her home—to continue to provide services in their communities. The revelations from the survey were discussed in national media and shared widely with funders and nonprofits. In a sector that is often lacking data, the survey uses numbers to illustrate the real-time trends related to real-time financial and operational challenges nonprofits are facing.

Every day, Nonprofit Finance Fund makes the case for better financial practices and more user-friendly financial support for the nonprofit organizations that are working to solve social issues. We are one of many who support the sector and recognize that it needs a new way of doing business (and new methods of funding and financing) if organizations are to continue doing their good work. The survey results provide a powerful tool that we all can use as we advocate for the sector. This year, we aim to collect more responses from nonprofits in Arizona and we hope that you will help us by adding your voice to our collective story.

Please take a few minutes to respond to this survey, which is anonymous: (If you do choose to give your name for press or follow-up purposes, we will never share your individual results!)

After taking the survey you can also help NFF get the word out by linking to this blog post or sharing the survey via social media. You can find Nonprofit Finance Fund on Twitter as @nff_news, and the hashtag for the survey is #2012Survey.

Jennifer Talansky, Vice President, Knowledge and Communications, is responsible for Nonprofit Finance Fund's strategies and activities on marketing, press, social media and thought leadership. Her team also conducts NFF's annual State of the Nonprofit Sector survey.

Like this article? Get another!

Click here to read Mac Smith's " Survey Backs 2011 Nonprofit Employment Trends Outlook."


I really appreciate your ideals for why it is important to take surveys. I too am bombarded with surveys on a daily basis with various surveys from organizations and different entities. However, quite recently I was asked to develop an assessment tool for a nonprofit so they can better understand the impact they are having on the clients and services they are providing, they hope to use the data to apply for funding. Through this process I have discovered several things.
1) The importance of surveys as a tool for financial needs as you mentioned. Without data and knowledge on what is being provided funding is hard to get.
2) How to make a survey appealing. As in my case I am constantly overwhelmed with surveys and if a survey is not appealing to the eye for me I will not take it.
3) The benefits beside financial benefits a survey has. The who, what and why a survey is important.

I could go on and on about surveys and what I have learned through my process and it was nice reading about your point of view and how a survey can be a powerful advocate.

Your article proved to be very informative of the importance of surveys. Before reading your article, I never gave much thought to them and always considered them to be a waste of time. I now know how important they are, especially for non-profit organizations!

Blog Archive