State of the Sector Surveys

2014 State of the Nonprofit Sector SURVEY

2014 survey generously supported by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

Bank of America Charitable Foundation    ford foundation

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April 24th @ 2pm EST exploring key survey trends. Click here to register!

On the day we opened our 2014 Survey, a water main burst beneath an intersection near our New York office, shutting down public transit, flooding the street, and drying up taps in thousands of homes. A critical piece of the city’s infrastructure had failed, creating a domino effect felt by those even miles away. Later that day, we learned of another threat to the city’s infrastructure: a Human Services organization that responded to our survey, with hundreds of employees and exclusively serving a low income community, reported just one month of cash in the bank. To make ends meet, they were in a precarious balancing act of managing loans and delaying paying their bills. On top of that, community need for their services had increased significantly, and they weren’t able to keep up with it. 

Nonprofits like this one make up our country’s hidden infrastructure, the social safety fabric that is as crucial as our water lines and roads. This fabric often represents decades of investment by taxpayers, foundations, and consumers. It educates us, keeps us healthy, and catches us when we are most at risk.  And it is under the threat of tearing.

NFF’s Annual Survey chronicles the challenges facing the nonprofit sector and calls out some of the targeted investments we can start to agree on as a society to salvage the investment we have collectively made in our social infrastructure. We believe that a coordinated intervention now will not only better prepare us for inevitable future economic crises; it can lead to a happier, healthier community for us all.

Key Findings

The economic recovery is leaving behind many nonprofits and communities in need:
  • 80% of respondents reported an increase in demand for services, the 6th straight year of increased demand. 
  • 56% were unable to meet demand in 2013—the highest reported in the survey’s history. 
  • Only 11% expect 2014 to be easier than 2013 for the people they serve. 
Nonprofits are working to bring in new money; in the next 12 months:
  • 31% will change the main ways in which they raise and spend money. 
  • 26% will pursue an earned income venture. 
  • 20% will seek funding other than grants & contracts, such as loans or other investments. 
41% of nonprofits named “achieving long-term financial stability” as a top challenge, yet:
  • More than half of nonprofits (55%) have 3 months or less cash-on-hand. 
  • 28% ended their 2013 fiscal year with a deficit. 
  • Only 9% can have an open dialogue with funders about developing reserves for operating needs, and only 6% about developing reserves for long-term facility needs. . 
Nonprofits are taking wide-ranging steps to survive and succeed. In the past 12 months:
  • 49% collaborated with another organization to improve or increase services. 
  • 48% invested money or time in professional development. 
  • 40% upgraded hardware or software to improve organizational efficiency. 
  • 39% conducted long-term strategic or financial planning. 
Respondents said that more than 70% of their funders requested impact or program metrics.
  • 77% agreed that the metrics funders ask for are helpful in assessing impact.
  • Only 1% reported that funders always cover the costs of impact measurement; 71% said costs were rarely or never covered. 

Explore the data yourself!

Our 2014 NFF Survey Analyzer at survey.nff.org allows you to investigate questions that cut across sub-sectors, budget size, geography and other dimensions. We invite you to share what you discover via e-mail and social media. If you'd like to find out what additional slices of the survey data are available, please email us at research@nffusa.org.

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