Will 2004 be remembered as the year when the economy turned the corner for charitable organizations? The results of GuideStar's third annual nonprofit economic survey indicate that it just might.
In my insurance consulting work with nonprofits, one area of coverage is a topic of constant concern—directors and officers insurance, a.k.a. D&O. There is, in many ways, an air of mystery around this kind of policy. Let's get rid of that!
Increasingly, donors, funders, and the media are using business criteria to measure charities' performance. They expect nonprofits to quantify their missions, programs, goals, and achievements and to be able to show how closely they have or have not met those standards.
Thank you to everyone who participated in GuideStar's third annual nonprofit economic survey. More than 4,200 of you took the time to share information about how your organizations fared financially during the first nine months of 2004. This figure represents the largest number of people ever to participate in a GuideStar survey.
What should we make of the fact that our survey found that giving is up slightly this year compared to the last few? Certainly not that all is well with the nonprofit sector. I prefer to think of Lester Salamon's term: "the resilient sector." For many nonprofit organizations, times are tough and getting tougher as demand for services continues to increase and support from government and private sources becomes more difficult to raise.
To this writer, the survey results are another reason to be grateful to the millions of generous contributors to nonprofit services and to be impressed by the dedication of nonprofit workers and volunteers who continue to make these valuable public services possible. In this "giving season of the year," it is good to remind ourselves not only how important the nonprofit sector is to our society but also how vulnerable it is. In the end, the ability to continue depends on a delicate balance of committed donors, dedicated workers, and volunteers, bound both by trust and mutual respect.
Every time we do a survey, we try to take from the experience ways to improve the process and the information we gather. This year, for example, we asked participants to provide their organizations' Employer Identification Number (EIN). This information enabled us to determine that more than 3,700 different nonprofits were represented in the survey. (FYI, to protect participants' anonymity, we remove the EINs and any e-mail addresses from survey data we share with individuals outside GuideStar.)
For 2005, we want to develop survey questions that will allow us to determine how much contribution levels increased or decreased over the year. We are still working out the details, but sometime in the New Year, we will send many of you an e-mail asking for feedback on our proposed survey strategy. Before we send the message, we'll announce its impending arrival in an issue of the Newsletter.
I hope you will have a moment to share your thoughts with us at that time. In the meantime, best wishes for every success during this busy season.
President and CEO, GuideStar