Cross-post: Are Nonprofits Getting the Support They Really Need?

  • By Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, October 4, 2018

Ellie Buteau and Charis Loh recently shared findings from a study conducted to discover what support nonprofits need and how funders are currently meeting those needs. This post originally appeared on the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s website. To read the complete post, please visit CEP’s website.

Strengthening nonprofit organizations and providing general operating support have been discussion topics for decades in philanthropy. When CEP set out to conduct research on these issues late last year, we wondered what the results would reveal to move these conversations forward. Perhaps, we thought, in the wake of the new presidential administration we’d see a headline from our data about how nonprofits’ needs have changed, or how foundations have shifted to fill newly found needs. But that’s not what we found.

To our surprise, the starkest findings in our data were those that indicated how power dynamics between funders and nonprofits are getting in the way of nonprofits having their greatest needs met.

CEP’s new research report out today, Strengthening Grantees: Foundation and Nonprofit Perspectives, is based on the perspectives of 170 nonprofit CEOs and 187 foundation leaders overseeing programmatic work at their foundation. The study provides an overview of current practices and describes the roles nonprofits and foundations each have to play to close the gap between the support nonprofits need and what funders provide. The research was funded, in part, by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the James Graham Brown Foundation.

What Nonprofits Need We found that when foundations do provide support to strengthen grantees, the effectiveness of their efforts may be thwarted by power dynamics that make it difficult for nonprofit CEOs to ask funders for what they actually need. Our research finds that when nonprofit CEOs request support, most ask for what they think funders want to provide, rather than what their organization needs for its future sustainability. This is problematic because most foundations give a great deal of consideration to grantees’ requests for specific support!

Nonprofit CEOs tell us that fundraising (42 percent), staffing (37 percent), and communications (26 percent) are the top areas that most commonly need strengthening. In fact, the data indicates that there is more need in particular for staffing and communications support than foundation leaders realize.

Head over to the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s website to continue reading.