NFF Research & Guides
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This practical guide offers cultural organizations and their supporters a set of action-oriented tips for strengthening capitalization in ways essential to artistic and organizational resiliency. These principles were developed by NFF over more than three decades of partnership with both organizations and grantmakers. They promote improved decision-making by cultural nonprofits of all disciplines and sizes, and by the funders who support them. When applied thoughtfully, in concert with strong financial planning and management, they offer the most direct route to building financially healthy organizations that can adapt to their changing circumstances.
For the 2014 State of the Sector Survey, NFF made a targeted effort to build knowledge and dialogue about the health and vitality of the arts and culture sector. Nonprofits that identified their sector as "Arts/Culture/Humanities" received an additional set of sector-specific questions in addition to regular survey questions. This report details full data results from the 919 respondents in this sector. Summary also available.
Whether tuition based or grant-funded, every program impacts an organization's bottom line. Making informed decisions about critical organizational issues like hiring or fundraising requires a clear understanding of each program's profit or loss. Is it inherently profitable? Does it require subsidy? How does it fit together financially with other programs? To answer these questions with confidence, Nonprofit Finance Fund uses a special approach to program profitability assessment.
Three mission-driven rationales can guide successful nonprofit mergers: an aim to grow scale (e.g. broaden reach), to increase scope (e.g. broaden services), or to streamline operations (e.g. increase efficiencies). Each comes with its own set of challenges and lines can blur among them. The merger of AIDS Action Committee and Fenway Health illustrates how a merger of like-minded organizations with different programmatic approaches was driven by all three rationales.
With support from Hawaii Community Foundation, NFF provided deep financial advice to nine nonprofits that provide Aging in Place (AIP) services, programs that allow seniors to receive community support while remaining in the comfort of their own homes. And through their stories, an urgent picture has emerged. By 2050, the population of American citizens over the age of 65 is expected to more than double. It has become increasingly imperative that our sector join forces to meet the needs of our seniors, lovingly called 'kupuna' in Hawaii. Among the services that will need to be scaled, AIP programs play a unique role in Hawaii. Applying a four-part methodology, NFF developed a step-by-step strategy outlining what the social sector in Hawaii must do to meet the future well prepared, so that Hawaii’s kupuna can age with the care they deserve.
Nonprofit Finance Fund Capital Partners has supported 21 organizations in their campaigns for philanthropic equity, involving a total of $326 million in financial investments. The 2012 Capital Partners Portfolio Performance Report, which tracks the progress of these campaigns to date, illuminates how philanthropic equity unlocks rapid increases in both impact and sustainability.
In 2007, as Merce Cunningham approached his 90th birthday and the inevitable end of his extraordinarily creative and prolific life as one of the world’s greatest choreographers, he and the leadership of the Cunningham Dance Foundation (CDF) explored various options for the future. Together they crafted The Legacy Plan, a bold and unprecedented program to preserve Cunningham’s legacy.
Nearly 6000 respondents from nonprofits across the country shared the details of how they are adapting their organizations and finances to economic conditions. The survey reveals that 2012 was a year in which organizations either made or planned to make significant changes in order to cope with mounting economic stress.
Explore the survey data yourself with this easy-to-use site that allows you to filter by sector, geography, and budget size.
Change Capital in Action: Lessons from Leading Arts Organizations shares the results of Leading for the Future (LFF), a five-year program that has invested change capital in ten leading performing arts organizations to support and sustain their business and artistic adaptation. It features principles of the LFF initiative, profiles of individual change efforts, participants financial and program outcomes, and lessons relevant for arts organizations and funders alike.
These case studies tell the story of each of the ten participants in the Leading for the Future Initiative (LFF), a 5-year program generously supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. NFF launched LFF to address nonprofit mis-capitalization by deploying 'change capital' to help arts organizations adapt their programming, operations and finances in ways that improve their long-term health. Versions of these case studies with video and other content are available at nonprofitfinancefund.org/LFF/Profiles.
Three-quarters of American nonprofits have annual budgets under $1 million, and most are even smaller. What these organizations lack in size, however, they make up for in impact. They respond to local needs, are absolutely critical to community building, and are staffed by people who understand and care about their communities–communities that have been abandoned by countless others. The following report draws on Nonprofit Finance Fund's experience working with 22 nonprofits through the Capital and Capacity for Economic Recovery (CCER) program in Greater Philadelphia, as well as our 30 years of work with small social service organizations nationwide. It highlights these nonprofits’ common financial challenges and offers suggestions for how they and their supporters can enact financially stabilizing practices in response.
What are the core issues small nonprofits face? And what can funders and nonprofits do to manage or solve these challenges? NFF has worked with nonprofits large and small for over 30 years. Post-recession, our work with smaller organizations has only reinforced some of our long-held observations about the conditions they face. Attached are concise tips for nonprofits and their supporters alike.
The Catalyst Fund for Nonprofits Interim Assessment evaluates progress in the first two years of the Fund’s five-year, $1.9 million effort to support strategic collaborations in the Boston area. It includes lessons learned to-date and details common characteristics of successful mergers and collaborations, as well as red flags and misperceptions that can derail them.
Merging for Greater Impact: a Case Study of Pine Street Inn and hopeFound shares the behind-the-scenes story of how two of the city’s leading homeless service agencies, Pine Street Inn and hopeFound, have combined efforts, in a merger that was formally announced on January 30, 2012, after an exploratory process supported by the Catalyst Fund.
Following his appearance as the keynote speaker for the 2012 Wharton Social Impact Conference, Antony Bugg-Levine was interviewed about his career in Impact Investing and the future of the movement.
In 2008, with leadership and support from its legendary founder and choreographer Merce Cunningham, the Cunningham Dance Foundation began laying the groundwork for its momentous closure after Merce was no longer able to work. Five years later, after a farewell worldwide Legacy Tour that culminated with final performances in New York City, the organization has ceased operation, provided career transition support for dancers and staff, and transferred its archival assets—including carefully curated digital “dance capsules” for each of its major works—to the Cunningham Trust. In this interactive webinar, you will hear their groundbreaking story, learn about the catalytic role played by flexible capital and ponder the implications of their exit for the field at large.
Join Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Center Theatre Group as we explore how each is using this special kind of investment to attract, develop and engage new audiences in creative and lasting ways. We’ll discuss what each organization is learning about new approaches to programming, the theatergoing experience, marketing and engagement techniques, and the role of young artists in attracting the next generation of patrons.
Antony Bugg-Levine, CEO, Nonprofit Finance Fund
Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation
Katherine Fulton, President of the Monitor Institute
This conversation with Judith Rodin, Antony Bugg-Levine and Katherine Fulton from SOCAP 2012 explores the state of Impact Investing and the role of institutions like the Rockefeller Foundation in building a movement around the idea.
Learn about how SITI Company, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Ping Chong & Company are building and sustaining more reliable revenue to support their cultural programming during a time of unprecedented artistic and economic flux. Discover how these organizations are investing Change Capital to:
- Invest in new marketing and development capacity
- Stabilize and grow earned income
- Attract new foundation revenue
- Strengthen individual donor bases
The business model is how an organization raises and spends money to fulfill its mission and strategic goals. A sustainable business model that provides reliable revenue to cover the full cost of doing business is crucial to a nonprofit’s ability to provide services effectively and grow to its potential. Use this worksheet to help articulate components of your nonprofit’s business model —a useful step in helping to determine whether your organization is fully covering costs and balancing mission, capacity, and capital. (last updated 9/2013)
For arts organizations, a declaration that economic ‘hard times’ have ended is premature. The more than 800 arts organizations who responded to NFF’s annual survey report that their crisis isn’t over. While they’ve largely been able to meet demand, even as it continues to grow, they have done so by steadily exhausting the available strategies for cutting costs. This presentation highlights these and other stories from arts organizations across the country.
See our webinar on how "Change Capital" can help transform arts organizations. The discussion includes brief presentations from The Wooster Group and Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, 2 of the 10 companies participating in NFF's Leading for the Future Initiative, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In the webinar, we discuss how to:
- Build a "risk reserve" fund for greater artistic freedom
- Stabilize earned income
- Generate incremental new revenue
- Expand audiences
The survey of more than 4,500 respondents reveals that while 2011 was a year of significant organizational and programmatic changes, many nonprofits are still facing fundamental challenges that threaten the stability of the sector and the well-being of the people they serve.
Explore the survey data yourself with this easy-to-use site that allows you to filter by sector, geography, and budget size.
Philanthropic Equity investments are high-stakes investments that have the potential to dramatically improve social outcomes, but are subject to the risks inherent to substantial change. Among NFF Capital Partners’ nine comprehensive philanthropic equity campaigns for which multi-year data are available, the impact todate resoundingly makes the case for further philanthropic equity investments. The bottom line: At a time when many peer organizations are struggling, recipient programs are thriving. Annual program delivery has grown at a compound rate of 44% per year on average.
Since 2008, NFF has worked with over 45 California-based domestic violence (DV) service providers to improve their sustainability and help them plan for the future. Through these Initiatives, NFF has developed a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities of this important group. In Part 1 of this report/case study, we examine the overall characteristics, history, and funding environment of the DV sector in California. In Part 2, we re-visit these sector-wide issues through unique organizational context of Center for Community Solutions, one of San Diego's oldest nonprofits dedicated to ending relationship and sexual violence.
The Case for Change Capital in the Arts shares the philosophy governing the Leading for the Future Initiative and discusses the need for and application of change capital in the arts. It also outlines core principles and practices that can improve capitalization in the sector but that will require changes in behavior by both nonprofits and funders alike. The piece tells how each of the participating organizations is applying change capital to undertake meaningful artistic, organizational and financial change.
Financial Reporting Done Right introduces a new way of financial reporting that improves transparency around how organizations manage their capital resources. While conventional accounting and reporting treat capital and revenue in the same way, NFF recommends that nonprofits make straightforward adjustments for capital that better reveal their true operating performance and progress.
This article by Rodney Christopher for Grantmakers In the Arts' GIAreader explains how and why an understanding of an organization's balance sheet is can help funders make informed decisions:
hopeFound, formerly known as the Friends of Shattuck Shelter, is dedicated to helping men and women recover from addiction and find employment, housing, and hope for a better future. In 2005, hopeFound encountered financial challenges that had the potential to put its mission at risk. On its own road to recovery, hopeFound engaged NFF to help reveal the story behind its financial situation. Over the next 5 years, hopeFound used NFF’s findings as the spark to transform into a sustainable nonprofit achieving more social impact than ever before—all while weathering one of the worst recessions in decades.
The survey of more than 1,900 nonprofit leaders in markets nationwide found that while there are some signs of hope, many nonprofits are straining under year-after-year increases in the demand for services.
In this guide, you’ll find energy saving tips for nonprofits, with an emphasis on saving money on utilities, maintaining safe and healthy indoor spaces, and moving towards a more environmentally conscious approach to facility management. As a project of NFF Philadelphia's Child Care Initiative, the guide also pays particular attention to organizations serving children in the Philly area. We encourage you to consider ways to become more energy efficient and reduce your organization’s environmental footprint!
On the Boards (OtB) is recognized as a leader in contemporary performance. As with so many nonprofits that expand, growing pains were inevitable. In 1998, a wonderful performance space was for sale, and OtB found the support to purchase and renovate it. Though their audiences loved it, revenue couldn't cover the increased expenses of the new facility. See how their participation in NFF's Mid-Sized Presenting Organizations (MPO) Initiative helped them turn around.
The regulations outlined in this handbook help Philadephia child care centers renovate and build their facilities and take the steps to create a safe accessible environment for children and the personnel who care for them. The handbook goes one step further by first outlining the top best practices that have been implemented at local day care centers. Leaders in the child care provider world know that thoughtful construction and renovation of a center can enhance children’s capacity for learning as well as curricula and should not be an afterthought because of fear of higher costs or complications to the development process. Quality facilities promote children’s social, emotional and cognitive growth, and have also proven to substantially improve employee satisfaction while also promoting stability and retention.
Watch this video of a conversation between Ben Cameron, Program Director for the Arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and NFF Founder Clara Miller on innovating and changing practices in arts organizations.
Since 2006, Nonprofit Finance Fund Capital Partners has supported 16 campaigns for philanthropic equity, totaling $312 million in financial investments. In this report summary, we provide an overview of the results of this work. The bottom line: Among NFF Capital Partners’ nine comprehensive philanthropic equity campaigns for which multi-year data are available, annual program delivery has grown on average by a factor of 3.1x, with a compound annual growth rate of 57%. You can also view the full report!
Since 2006, NFF Capital Partners has supported 16 campaigns for philanthropic equity, totaling $312 million in financial investments. Philanthropic equity investments are high-stakes investments that have the potential to dramatically improve social outcomes, but are subject to the risks inherent to substantial change. This report analyzes: the role of philanthropic equity in the nonprofit sector, results associated to-date with these investments, and key challenges to developing a robust philanthropic equity marketplace. (You can also download a Report Summary!)
This worksheet customizes the long version of NFF's Self-Assessment worksheet to the specific needs of arts organizations. If you answer Yes to many questions, you’re likely weathering the current economic climate well and have a good grasp of your financial dynamics. If you’re answering No or Not Sure often, you may want to review what actions you are or could be taking to manage areas of concern. With support from your funders, NFF can help you interpret the results and consider next steps.
This webinar is a resource for organizations that are fairly new to the loan process and would like to learn more. Our Chief Credit Officer and Vice President of Financial Services, Anne Dyjak, reviews what kinds of loans are available for nonprofits, what lenders look for from potential borrowers, and what borrowers should expect from a good lender. There is a substantive Q&A at the end. We hope you find this helpful!
The 2010 Survey told the story of the relentless pursuit of mission in our sector. It followed up on our 2009 Survey, which revealed that nonprofits nationwide were hit hard by the financial conditions of late 2008 and 2009. The 1,315 responses showed that many nonprofit leaders persisted in their innate optimism, despite their predictions of an even more difficult year to come.
Detailed charts and tables mapped to each survey question from the 2010 Nonprofit Survey.
This worksheet provides nonprofit managers with a clear snapshot of some of their organization's financial strengths and weaknesses. If you answer Yes to many questions, you’re likely weathering the current economic climate well and have a good grasp of your financial dynamics. If you’re answering No or Not Sure often, you may want to review what actions you are or could be taking to manage areas of concern. With support from your funders, NFF can help you interpret the results and consider next steps.
The 2009 survey revealed that America's nonprofits, including the "lifeline" organizations that many depend on for food, shelter, and other basic services, are strained to the breaking point. The survey of 986 nonprofit leaders in markets nationwide captured the financial state and challenges facing these organizations.
A snapshot of the 2009 State of the Sector Survey results, with charts and key points.
Telling your financial story is critical to the success of any nonprofit. Today, more than ever, it’s necessary to keep your stakeholders engaged and provide the strongest, most urgent case for your organization’s impact and accomplishments. Review the following financial questions and use your answers to build the financial story you want to share with funders and supporters.
A broad economic crisis can magnify a nonprofit’s pre-existing financial difficulties. The tips below are helpful for sound financial planning in all economic situations. However, in unstable times, they become even more vital. Getting through such crises requires communication, transparency, and planning rather than “fake it ‘til we make it” behavior. In preparation for a possible recession, NFF recommends a two-part strategy: assess your nonprofits potential financial risks, then create a plan to respond to those risks.
What we do and how we serve is inspired by our commitment to create a financially strong nonprofit sector that's better able to serve the community. Throughout our 30 years, we've developed some core concepts and philosophies on nonprofit finance that inform all our practices. Our Top Tens, crafted for both nonprofits and funders, give a concise summary of these concepts.
Nonprofits that own or operate historic facilities often struggle to cover the high costs of maintenance and repair of these properties, and many do not adequately "fund" depreciation. This case study tells us the story of how The Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) developed a new financial model and operations plan to secure the future of its beautiful facilities.
The Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center's Executive Director Elaine Ng shares her insights on the struggles and successes of negotiating for property ownership and major facility renovation. Ng and NFF provide insights on what to keep in mind when pursuing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and handling the internal struggles implicit in organizational change.
In this case study, NFF explores how Third Sector New England (TSNE) moved beyond the dream of controlling its costs to owning a financially and programmatically-grounded green building. By linking together its mission, programs and financial model, TSNE emerged as a leading social change landlord in Boston, while simultaneously achieving LEED and ENERGY STAR certification for its NonProfit Center.
The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University and NFF hosted a gathering of funders, practitioners, and researchers to address nonprofit financial issues in March 2007. This report presents a summary of ideas from the event. More than 50 field leaders came together to voice their support for a fundamental shift in the way funders support the nonprofit sector.
This case study of three organizations that received loans from Nonprofit Finance Fund illustrates how access to capital enables educational nonprofits to improve and expand their vital services and achieve important results for the young people they reach. The loans and case study were made possible with generous support from The Goldman Sachs Foundation which funds the Education Ventures Initiative, a partnership with Nonprofit Finance Fund.
Most people know a facility project when they see one–buying or renting a building, renovation, office build-out, major repairs or systems upgrades. Not a difficult question to answer until you have to figure out how much the project is going to cost. Then, the definition of a facilities project broadens considerably. The question becomes, “how much and in what ways will this project have a financial impact on my organization?”
If your organization is considering a facility project, there will be a special set of challenges to your infrastructure, which may already be hard-pressed to meet the demands of day-to-day responsibilities. As you prepare and manage the project, your decision must be able to withstand scrutiny in several areas. This planning guide provides an outline or several factors to consider as you move ahead.
If you've cleared your first hurdles and are now ready to face the challenges of construction, there are a variety of ways in which the wrong decision can have lasting consequences. The project itself will provide plenty of opportunities for missteps, many of which can be costly…and most of which can be avoided.
If your nonprofit is relocating offices, this guide provides tips to help you manage the moving process. It discusses who is involved when, how to manage a schedule and budget, how to prepare for the move, select a mover, and manage the move.
By returning sacred objects from its collection to tribal communities, the National Museum of the American Indian is redefining museum practices around the management of culturally sensitive materials. Explore how museum/tribal cooperation has contributed to the continuity of American Indian culture and community.
Ballet Memphis is a pioneer of the regional ballet movement, which has become an essential and dynamic element of the dance ecosystem. Find out how it became a thriving company within a community that had not historically supported ballet. Witness how it continues to evolve artistically while remaining relevant to the community.
Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada has developed a national following through its annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. How did the Center draw on the popularity of this event to attract supporters from around the country to sustain its overall programming? Explore how the Center has successfully navigated the sometimes rocky road of cultivating donors and members who may only pass through its doors once each year.
In this 2001 study, NFF and AEA Consulting analyzed the space and capacity-building needs of the
Philadelphia dance community, which, at the time, did not have a theater or primary locus for the dance community to rehearse, congregate, and exhange ideas. Funding for this study was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the William Penn Foundation. The report details the areas that need to be strengthened to develop the positive momentum of recent years.
The Steppenwolf Theater Company grew from an 88-seat facility in a suburban church basement to become a nationally acclaimed theater. This monograph explores how Steppenwolf achieved success through the continual balancing and rebalancing of business operations, capital investment, and artistic innovation. It's the "gold standard" story of nonprofit growth over 25 years.
New York's Film Forum had raised more than half of a $4 million endowment, substantially from a handful of very large contributors passionately devoted to film and to Film Forum. Broadening that circle of donors was among the key challenges faced by the organization in 2002. Examine the film house's accomplishments and the choices that still lie ahead.
In 2002, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center was in the midst of a capital campaign, raising support from individual contributors at every income level. The fundraising drive revolved around a religious icon that embodied the spirit of the campaign and of the institution. See how the Center's leaders worked to make their vision a reality.
Facilities dominate arts operations to an extent rarely seen in any sector. Arts organizations are three times as asset-intensive as the American steel industry. Their facilities are technically complex, expensive and time-consuming to build and maintain. While appropriate facilities are intrinsic to the health of arts organizations, we treat them as if they were peripheral. This denial means that we spend millions annually--intentionally or not--to build and maintain an enormous asset base without acknowledging or providing for it. We tend to ignore the demands facilities place on artists and arts organizations and their impact over time. The results are costly.
NFF's asset-building financial service, Building for the FutureSM (BFF), originally sprang from a research study of Boys and Girls Clubs, examining ways NFF and the Hayden Foundation could work together to provide financial incentives that would reverse disinvestment in facilities that serve low- and moderateincome youth.
During two fundraising campaigns, the Japanese American National Museum raised tens of millions of dollars from families and individuals who are neither wealthy nor accustomed to making large donations. Read the story of how and why the Museum succeeded.
Facilities dominate arts operations to an extent rarely seen in any sector. In this report, concluded in 1994, we explore the facility-related needs of arts organizations, which were, at the time, three times more asset-intensive than the American steel industry. The report also includes an evaluation of the quality and quantity of capital resources available to serve the arts and the potential to improve those resources.