Research & Fact Finding

Funder Services-Research & Fact FindingIndentifying trends in the nonprofit world is an essential piece of social change puzzle. NFF spends a lot of time examining the way nonprofits operate, adapt, and grow, from the individual organization to broad sub-groups. With support from funders, we explore emerging issues, write papers and conduct field research analyzing the way money is both given and used in the sector. This knowledge informs NFF’s lending, consulting, and advocacy practices, which all aim to make our sector more adaptable and stable, in both good and bad economic times.

To learn more, visit Resources & Articles section for a selection of resources for nonprofits, reports, and thought pieces that illuminate NFF's core concepts on nonprofit finace.

Online Data Tools

Assessing a nonprofit's financial health is time-consuimg and challenging. Which metrics and trends should you focus on and what do they mean? What should you consider when comparing organizations?

Developed through a partnership between NFF and GuideStar, Financial SCAN is a new online data platform that can help. It gives you an overview of a nonprofit’s finances in a visual, easy-to-read format so you can quickly see trends over time. Drawn from IRS 990 tax returns, Financial SCAN is the only available platform that analyzes nonprofit data in a comprehensive, standardized way, without focusing on ratios like overhead that have no bearing on a nonprofit's financial health. By highlighting metrics associated with organizational stability, you can stay focused on what’s really important: achieving social impact. Purchase Financial SCAN at

Portfolio Scans and Cohort Analyses

Using 990 or audited data, we analyze financial conditions and trends in a preselected group of organizations—either grantees or a cohort of organizations in a common sector, geography, budget range, etc. The scan provides the funder with a clearer picture of:
  • How its grantees compare with similar organizations;
  • The diverse capital needs of grantees based on program strategy, risks inherent
  • in a sector or revenue type;
  • The challenges and implications of growth.

Analysis can help answer questions such as: Do organizations’ financial conditions suggest a threat to the quality or availability of services? Is a given cohort relatively robust or frail? Why? What are the common financial trends in the group and how might funders respond to them? What are policy action opportunities suggested by data? Do most organizations cover the full cost of delivering services? How reliable is revenue?

Research and Thought Leadership

NFF does customized research to connect market conditions and mission needs in a sector, region, and/or grantee portfolio. We speak and publish widely with the goal of improving knowledge about social sector finance nationwide. Funders commission studies and presentations on topics of specific interest.