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The State of the Nonprofit Sector in 2011

By Nell Edgington

Today the Nonprofit Finance Fund released the results of their annual survey of the nonprofit sector. In its third year, this annual survey is starting to demonstrate some interesting trends.

You can see the full survey results here and download their summary brochure here. They have more than doubled the number of respondents since the first year, this year receiving almost 2,000 responses.

Some of the top-line results:

Nonprofit leaders expect 2011 to be another tough year for their organizations and the people they serve:

  • 85% of organizations expect an increase in service demand in 2011; just 46% expect to be able to fully meet this demand
  • This comes on top of years of increases: in 2010, 77% of nonprofits saw an increase in demand; in 2009, 71% experienced an increase in demand, and 73% of organizations experienced increased demand in 2008
  • 60% of organizations have three months or less of cash on hand; 10% have none
  • Only 9% expect 2011 to be financially easier for the people they serve

But, there are signs of hope:

  • 44% of nonprofits reported ending 2010 with a surplus, a move in the right direction from the 35% who had a surplus in 2009
  • 25% of organizations added to reserve funds in 2010
  • 35% of organizations raised more revenue in 2010 than anticipated

And even further, nonprofits are getting creative about how to meet demand for their services, in fact a majority of nonprofits actually added services, despite these challenging economic times:

  • 55% of respondents added or expanded programs or services
  • 49% increased the number of clients served
  • 47% partnered with another organization to improve or increase services offered
  • 39% reduced annual expenses
  • 36% relied more on volunteers

There was also interesting data around how nonprofits relate to their funders. 58% of nonprofit leaders felt they could have an open dialogue with their funders about program expansion, but only 5% felt they could discuss debt burden, followed by 9% for building reserves. And 23% didn’t feel that their funders would engage in dialogue about any of the topics listed. 50% of respondents would like funders to provide more general operating or capacity support, while 11% asked funders to fund what already works, rather than asking for something new.

There is some really interesting data here. I encourage you to look at the full results.

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About the Author: Nell Edgington is President of Social Velocity (, a management consulting firm leading nonprofits to greater social impact and financial sustainability. Social Velocity helps nonprofits grow their programs, bring more money in the door, and use resources more effectively. For more information, check out Social Velocity consulting services and clients.

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