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The State of Our Sector Is Resilient

The State of Our Sector Is ResilientI am deeply grateful to the thousands of you who raised your voices to tell the country what’s at stake by taking the 2018 State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey. For the eighth time, NFF is proud to publish this collective megaphone, which has become a widely cited barometer of U.S. nonprofits’ financial and operational health, and a crucial evidence base for a wide array of sector funding discussions.

Here is what we heard from almost 3,400 of you, leaders of nonprofits large and small that address many issues on many community frontlines across all 50 states.

  • Demand is still growing faster than our organizations can meet it. It’s very challenging to cover the full costs of what the country relies on us to do and keep the lights on. The sector needs more hands to do all the work and more competitive pay to attract them.
  • It’s become very hard to reach many people who need help but are afraid to ask for it. Two-thirds of us said the federal government’s 2017 actions and words made clients’ lives harder, not easier. Affordable housing is the most frequently cited community need in communities rural and urban across 48 of our 50 states.
  • Our sector is meeting these chronic and real-time challenges with characteristic resiliency, creativity, and compassion. Nonprofits are adding staff, raising pay, expanding programs, and increasing our focus on advocacy, racial inequity, and the diversity of our leaders and staffs. And three-quarters of responding organizations closed out 2017 at break-even or better.

NFF’s 2018 Survey sought data to ground anecdotes from a tumultuous year full of uncertainties and painful rifts. So, in addition to questions about organizations’ financial and operational health and planning, we asked about focus on advocacy, leadership diversity, and racial inequity, including via open-ended questions so we could hear from you in your own words. We learned that nonprofit leaders are intently concerned for the vulnerable people their organizations serve, notably immigrant, low-income, and LGBTQ+ communities.

“Changes to eligibility and criteria made for more clients to be left out of services they previously had access to,” wrote one respondent, who leads a human-services nonprofit in New York. “The uncertainty and lack of leadership, coupled with policies that tend to blame being poor on the poor, make our job increasingly more difficult,” said another respondent, who leads a health nonprofit serving rural North Carolina.

Click here to read more about the 2018 Survey, and here to explore the full data yourself. Over the coming weeks and months, NFF will continue to drive discussions and share more numbers and words from the thousands of remarkable people we are proud to call colleagues. For the moment, I’d just like to say thank you—for taking and sharing the Survey, for helping our sector build and use this critically needed data set, and for everything you do every day.

The State of Our Sector Is ResilientAntony Bugg-Levine is CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund, which advances missions and social progress through financing, consulting, partnerships, and knowledge-sharing. Connect with Antony @ABLImpact and on LinkedIn.

Topics: Nonprofits and the Economy Demand for Nonprofit Services State of the Nonprofit Sector, 2018