2012 State of the Sector Survey: In their Words

We asked survey respondents to share their greatest challenge for the coming year, and how they plan to address it.  Below is some of what we heard.

Demand is Outpacing Funding

“Our greatest challenge is ongoing cuts to programs that effect and detrimentally impact the women and children we serve. Additionally, our donors/funders have less available money to support programs and services so we are doing more with less, and sustaining this energy level is increasingly difficult.” Human Services NPO, CA

 “Funding is our biggest challenge. We may have to reduce the amount of hours we are open. That will reduce the number of people we are able to serve. Which will hurt those not able to be served.” -Human Services NPO, UT

“It has been a difficult economic year and we have seen a dramatic increase in the need for our services. As resources decrease across the country, the request for basic needs continues to grow. We provide a continuum of vital services and comprehensive programs for everyone, including the vulnerable and those without hope. Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness among women and children in the nation. It takes more than a roof overhead to break the cycle of homelessness particularly when domestic violence is involved. Research shows that linking housing with well-coordinated support services—like job training, childcare, domestic violence counseling, and substance abuse counseling—can make the difference between a family’s successful transition to permanent housing and repeated episodes of homelessness. Our greatest challenge is securing a steady stream of revenue and funding for services and programs. We will continue to work for support from government and private funders and donors to ensure we can provide critical services for domestic violence victims, children and families." -Human Services NPO, WA

 “We anticipate a decrease in funding from private foundations and businesses due to the decrease in government funding to other non-profits. We expect these other non-profits to request money from the same private foundations and businesses from which we receive significant funding this decreasing the funds available to us. We will respond to this decrease in funding by continually transforming our programs so that they are as efficient and effective as possible. We will also be diligent and intentional in our messaging to our funders so that they see the benefit in contributing to us. As always, we are striving to make in-roads into businesses and foundations who have yet to fund us but are open to supporting our programs and mission.” -Human Services NPO, CA

Organizations Are Staying Afloat but Slowly Bleeding

“Our greatest challenge is increasing revenue. State reimbursement for contracted services has not covered costs of service delivery for more than two decades, and reduced state budgets resulting from the economic collapse have exacerbated the problem. In addition, significant cutbacks in united way funding for programs serving children and youth have increased financial pressures.” -Human Services NPO, MA

“At the end of our last fiscal year, we had a deficit and [took] strong action to reduce the debt. For this season, we have reduced programming and staff in an effort to eliminate the debt. [It] will be eliminated at the end of the year and we will begin to produce a more consistent season next year. Our biggest challenge will be strategically adding staff… back to accommodate the increased work load without causing the same strain on the budget as occurred in the past.” -Arts, Culture, & Humanities NPO, GA

“We need to build a cash reserve...desperately.” -Education NPO, NY

“…We just finished our most recent audit… It shows a substantial deficit for the 3rd year in a row. While our organization is holding on,… funding organizations look at the tax return, our lack of reserves, and our P&L, and it looks as if we are sinking... Our staff is stretched to the limit, our Board has no experience in running campaigns, and no major funder wants to give to an [NPO] without a solid financial future. It's a horrible cycle and there is no way out…” -Arts, Culture, & Humanities NPO, MT

“We receive our core funds from the Fed. They require 100% cash match. The state of CA is providing ZERO cash match. That means we must spend much of our time fundraising rather than focused on service delivery. Our core deliverable is job creation... so it is ironic that the state of CA has no money for us.” –Education and Job Training NPO, CA

"The greatest challenge continues to be meeting demand for services with shrinking resources and the ongoing uncertainty that exists for the sector. The exceedingly late payments by government have added additional strain on an already spread too thin budget cash flow. Year after year of cuts with year after year of growing demand have created not only a 'new normal' but also quite a bit of fatigue and strain on morale." -Public/Societal Benefit NPO, NY 

Business as Unusual Approaches Are Required

“Scale is our greatest challenge. We have an operating budget of just over $500K, which allows for very little R&D, risk taking, serendipitous response, etc., and limits our ability to meet certain institutional donor needs. We have a partnership with a national organization which is providing little or no benefit, and are eager in 2012 to find a complementary local partner(s). We want to enhance reach, efficiency, and ability to sleep at night.” -Arts, Culture, Humanities NPO, NY 

“Our biggest challenge is continuing to secure sufficient cash support to implement systems changes that allow us to sustainably close the missing meal gap for hungry Minnesotans.” -Human Services NPO, MN

“Our biggest challenge is raising enough money to meet baseline expenses. We are engaging the board more actively and have hired our first full-time development director to increase individual and corporate contributions. We plan on doing at least one small (30-40 person) cultivation event.” -Education NPO, NY

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