Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mapping Nonprofit Sector

"The financial situation is dire, and all indicators are that it will be worse next year. It seems impossible that all nonprofits will survive.

What's the outlook for the future. Don't expect the Institute for Nonprofit Organizational Management to tell you.

'We're closing for financial reasons...This is our last report.'"

C.W. Nevius, "Winnowing 7,093 S.F. nonprofits needed?" San Francisco Chronicle, April 2, 2009.

It's worth underscoring that the nonprofit infrastructure of research outfits, technical assistance providers, and advocates are highly vulnerable in this economic environment. It's reasonable for donors to ask: Which of my investments has the most impact?

The Institute for Nonprofit Organizational Management's final report, San Francisco's Nonprofit Sector; Contributions, Diversity, and Challenges, represents the kind of slicing and dicing of data that is extremely helpful in mapping where the nonprofit sector has come from and where it is going.

Inevitabley we ask questions like: Why are there so many nonprofits that provide the same services? Why are there so many small nonprofits? Why does there seem to be so much fragmentation in the nonprofit sector? Tough economic times make these questions more salient. They are questions for nonprofit investors and leaders as well as individual organizations.

The report poses three provocative questions in conclusion:

"Why are small San Francisco nonprofits more likely to use deficit spending?

What does it mean that San Francisco nonprofits do not have their headquarters in the areas of greatest need?

What are the implications of our diversity findings?

The largest unresolved question hangs on the economy."

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