Nonprofits Think Foundations Can Do More to Help with Their Challenges

This post, delving into data from the 2013 CEP report, Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do, originally appeared on the blog in October 2013. It is reposted here as part of our Rewind blog series.

Nonprofits want more than just money from foundations. Grantees see other, crucial opportunities for foundations to help them.

This is clear from our report, Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do, in which we discuss some of the major challenges nonprofits are facing. Based on a survey of our Grantee Voice panel, it is clear that nonprofits believe foundations can do more to help them address their most pressing needs. 

For starters, the data indicate that only 52 percent of nonprofit leaders believe their foundation funders are aware of the various challenges their organizations face (see figure below). This may in part be a result of the relationships that grantees have with their funders and, in particular, their degree of comfort with being open and honest. The more likely nonprofit leaders are to report that they can be open with their funders about their organizations’ challenges, the more likely they are to report that their funders are aware of the challenges they face.

Less than one third of nonprofit leaders believe foundations take advantage of their myriad resources to help them address their challenges. One respondent commented, “My foundation funder could offer technical assistance or identify a select pool of resources that we could use. Many resources are generally available, but identifying the right resource at the right price can be time consuming, expensive, and ultimately disappointing.” Another suggested that their funders “bring us together to meet other grantees doing similar work in other areas so we can all learn from each others’ experiences.”

Only 36 percent of nonprofit leaders believe that foundations share their knowledge about what other nonprofits are doing to address challenges similar to those that their organization faces. One nonprofit leader said foundations should “provide knowledge of best practices and additional resources that are available to supplement the work they are funding,” and another commented that, “Foundation funders can serve as valuable resources in offering advice on how other similar nonprofits have been successful in weathering challenging economic times.”

Although nonprofit leaders appear frustrated that foundations are not more aware of their challenges, they are not looking to foundations to solve all their problems. On a variety of frequently cited challenges— including productively engaging their boards of directors and developing and training their staff — most nonprofits are not looking for foundations’ help. This suggests that in order for a foundation to most effectively take advantage of their resources and share their knowledge with their grantees, they must first understand what a particular grantee is looking for help with. 

Mark Chaffin was a senior research analyst at CEP from 2012-2014 and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in computational biology and quantitative genetics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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