The Nonprofit Quarterly Study on Nonprofit and Philanthropic Infrastructure

by Elizabeth T. Boris; Paul C. Light; David Brown; Tom Clough; David O. Renz

May 7, 2009
Examines trends in the nonprofit sector's support network and financing system and their capacity to address the impact of the financial crisis on small and midsize nonprofits, share organizational survival strategies, and connect them to resources.
  • Respondents felt there was a tendency for foundations to prefer ""the big firms"" over smaller, more locally-base local management support organizations or other intermediaries for capacity building, yet the latter are where a lot of nonprofits want to go when they have capacity building needs.
  • Important capacity-building services and resources have not adequately reached small and mid-sized organizations. This may stem from, but not be fully explained by, the concentration of funding in a limitednumber of individual institutions, rather thanin a comprehensive distributed system.
  • Relationships and personal politics are perceived by many infrastructure groups as a better indicator of who receives funding than mission, reach, or work product.
  • The sector’s capacity to generate useful research is higher than ever, but funding does not link research to practical application.
  • Most infrastructure organizations are not digital natives and need help in rethinking their design to include the most optimal use of new technological tools.
  • A notable and welcome trend has been the clarification and analysis of common nonprofit financial patterns and practices that are being presented in ways that practitioners can understand.
  • Over the next few years—particularly as a national response to the current financial crisis is devised and the place of nonprofits in that response is negotiated—policy monitoring and advocacy, especially at the national level, is critical.
  • The report notes an increasing separation of the philanthropic infrastructure from the larger nonprofit infrastructure.
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