I have a strange vantage point on the nonprofit sector. Because of our production of the daily Nonprofit Newswire, I must view the sector’s current state partially through the eyes of the news media and, as we all know, the media sometimes misinterprets the facts.
The other day, I re-reported a story for the Newswire about a United Way in upstate New York that was downgraded by Charity Navigator to a “1” because its overhead had risen and its reserves had dwindled—not exactly an anomaly these days. The news source had reported the downgrade and left interpretation largely to the local reader. This, of course, would lead some to believe that the particular United Way was not so well managed.
Then, a little later that week I saw another story that said that smaller sites of the Combined Federal Campaign were having the same problem—costs of fundraising rising against smaller contributions – and yesterday I reported on a study done by the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy that shows that returns on investments (ROI) for fundraising are dwindling and that the problem is especially acute with regards to end of year annual campaigns.
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This is the way NPQ begins to pick up trends occurring across the sector and then we can alert you. This issue is important, for instance, because if your board watches these kinds of things, it should know that the ratios for fundraising need to be watched carefully to ensure that you are spending wisely now. You also do not want them blaming staff or themselves for a failure that is really system wide.
I know that there are always the exceptions that disprove any rule. The wildly successful capital campaign down the street, etc. but if our standard operating environment is changing, it behooves us to know it!
So, what we would love is if you would think about being one of NPQ’s informants. If you sense a trend developing or see a story you think is worth our covering, send it along particularly if you are in an area of the country with less coverage of nonprofits. This will allow us to patch together stories that can help alert your colleagues to changes afoot.
Finally, make sure you send us along to your friends so that they have the benefit of the information you all are helping us gather. NPQ is only as good as our community of readers.