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Signs of Stability: Results of the 2007 GuideStar Nonprofit Economic Survey

For the past six years, GuideStar has been asking nonprofit representatives to compare their organizations' current situations—in terms of services provided and donations received—to the previous year. Certain trends have become evident in the past few years: a majority of organizations reporting that their contributions had increased or remained the same and a majority reporting an increase in the demand for their services.

Both of these trends continued in 2007, pointing to a stability in the steadily expanding nonprofit sector, despite the uncertainty of the current economic climate. A general feeling of optimism about the coming months was also in evidence, as a majority of organizations that rely on end-of-year contributions indicated that they were anticipating an increase in gifts during the 2007 giving season.

"We are pleased that support for nonprofit organizations has increased this year," stated Bob Ottenhoff, GuideStar's president and CEO. "We are also glad that, despite fluctuations in the economy, so many in the sector are optimistic about end-of-year giving. As demand for nonprofits' services grows, however, it is more important than ever that Americans support the vital programs offered by the nation's charitable organizations."

Contribution Levels

When survey participants were asked about contributions received over the first nine months of 2007 as compared to the same period last year, the results were in line with the past three years.

Change in Contributions

GuideStar Survey Contributions Decreased Contributions Stayed about the Same Contributions Increased Don't Know
October 2007 19% 25% 52% 4%
October 2006 19% 27% 50% 4%
October 2005 22% 26% 49% 3%
October 2004 23% 24% 50% 3%
October 2003 35% 22% 39% 4%
November 2002 48% 22% 28% 3%

Representatives of organizations that receive the majority of their contributions during the last three months of the year were also asked how they anticipated 2007's year-end giving to compare to the same period in 2006. The results display a positive attitude toward expectations for the upcoming giving season, with 28 percent of respondents anticipating contributions would remain about the same and 60 percent anticipating that they would exceed the 2006 levels.

Demand for Services

As has been the case for the past four years, a majority of survey respondents reported an increase in the demand for the services their organizations provide over the first nine months of the year.

Change in Demand

GuideStar Survey Demand Decreased Demand Stayed about the Same Demand Increased Don't Know
October 2007 5% 25% 67% 3%
October 2006 4% 23% 72% 2%
October 2005 5% 24% 70% 2%
October 2004 5% 23% 71% 2%
October 2003 6% 22% 70% 2%

For the third straight year, the greatest percentage of organizations reporting an increase in the demand for their services identified their mission as pertaining to Food/Agriculture/Nutrition. The categories with the smallest percentage of organizations reporting an increase in demand for services included Arts/Culture/Humanities, Medical Research, and Science and Technology Research Institutes.

Grantmaking Organizations

Nearly 20 percent of the participants in the survey indicated that the organizations they represent were either a private foundation or a grantmaking public charity. More than half of these organizations reported an increase in the dollar amounts they had awarded in the first nine months of 2007, with only 12 percent reporting a decrease.

Change in Amounts Awarded

GuideStar Survey Amounts Awarded Decreased Amounts Awarded Stayed about the Same Amounts Awarded Increased Don't Know
October 2007 12% 33% 52% 3%
October 2006 14% 32% 52% 3%
October 2005 13% 38% 47% 2%
October 2004 19% 33% 45% 2%
October 2003 32% 35% 32% 2%
November 2002 40% 28% 18% 15%

Representatives of these organizations were also asked to compare the number of grant applications they received during the first nine months of 2007 to the same period in 2006. Eighty-nine percent reported that this number had either increased or remained the same.

Differences by Location and Organization Size

When the survey results were broken down regionally, there was little difference of any statistical significance from the national results, both in contributions and demand for services. Representatives of larger organizations with annual expenditures of $5 million or more were the least likely to report a decrease in contributions as well as the most likely to report an increase. Organization size, however, didn't appear to affect demand for services.

See the complete survey results, including regional and mission-based breakdowns

About the Survey

In October 2007, GuideStar invited newsletter subscribers who had identified themselves as representatives of either a public charity or a private foundation to participate in its annual survey on nonprofits and the economy. Responses were received by 4,173 individuals representing at least 3,587 nonprofit organizations of varying sizes and missions located in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.

Patrick Ferraro, December 2007
© 2007, Philanthropic Research, Inc. (GuideStar)

Patrick Ferraro is a freelance writer in Seattle and a former editor of the Newsletter.
Topics: Trends