Data Point: Nonprofits Struggle with Meeting Demand, Using Technology, and Developing Leadership

It can be difficult for funders to know what grantees really want from their funders – beyond grants.

In our report Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do we explored the most pressing challenges for nonprofits. Based on a survey of our Grantee Voice panel, it is clear nonprofits are confronted with a range of challenges, but they are not looking for foundations to help with all of them.

The main areas where nonprofits are looking for more foundation help are meeting the demand for their programs and services, using technology to improve their effectiveness, and developing their leadership skills.

More than three-quarters of nonprofit leaders find meeting the demand for their organizations’ programs/services challenging, and the majority would like more help with this issue from their foundation funders. One nonprofit leader who did experience foundation support with meeting demand during a difficult time provided the following example, “A local foundation not only filled the gap of funding lost from a governmental funding source, but it extended such funding to a second year, allowing us to truly assess programming and the time to regain the funding lost from the government. Without these funds, we would have had to displace 150 seniors from our services.”

Of the 77 percent of nonprofit leaders who find using technology to increase their effectiveness to be a challenge, two-thirds want more help from their foundation funders. One nonprofit leader requested that funders “provide technological tools and resources for capacity-building such as skilled volunteers in addition to funding” while another believes, “unrestricted dollars would provide us with the ability to invest in our infrastructure: technology, staff development and retention, and advocacy.”

Finally, many nonprofit leaders – 73 percent – feel they lack sufficient resources and opportunities to develop their leadership skills. Given that more than 40 percent of respondents report that they have been in their position for at least 10 years, this is clearly an issue for all leaders, not just those who are new to their roles.

Although there are certainly foundations – such as the Haas, Jr. Fund, Hawaii Community Foundation, and American Express Foundation – that have invested in leadership development, it is clear that nonprofits are looking for more. One leader said, “I wish we had more opportunities for training other than what is offered locally. Unfortunately, even though local training may be good we normally interact with the same trainers and other nonprofit leaders over and over and don’t get new and fresh ideas. Most of us cannot afford the travel and registration expenses connected to larger out-of-region trainings.”


Mark Chaffin is a Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

developing strategy, foundation strategy, funder/grantee relationships, giving strategy, grantee perspectives, Grantee Voice, leadership, nonprofit sector
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