Nonprofits stress less about money matters

While funding and staffing remain problematic for nonprofits, fiscal stress seems to have become less of an issue recently, a new study says.

Nonprofits reported a decline in fiscal stress between 2003 and 2006, according to a recent survey by the Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project.

However, declining funding and related fallout, as well as human resource issues, were still ongoing concerns.

The Listening Post Project, which monitors the health of American nonprofits, consulted nearly 750 organizations working in child and family services, elderly care, community and economic development and culture and the arts about their perceived performance over the course of three years.

Of these, more than three in four characterized their financial performance in 2006 as “generally successful,” the study says, while only one out of three groups cited “severe financial stress” in 2006, compared to just over half in the three years prior.

“Persistent crisis has become a way of life for America’s nonprofits,” Peter Goldberg, chair of the Listening Post Project Steering Committee, says in a written statement. “What this survey shows, however, is that America’s nonprofit executives have become skilled crisis managers.”

Evidence of fiscal stress was nonetheless visible.

Increases in work hours, turnover and client wait time, as well as cuts to training programs, plagued a significant number of the organizations surveyed.

Worries about declining funds and increased costs also beset at least half of the groups, though this trend appears not to have affected service to the poor, the study says.

Human-resource issues such as board and staff recruitment and retention were increasingly categorized as “very significant,” while accountability concerns occupied only a quarter of respondents, despite recent media attention.

“This suggests that the audiences nonprofits care most about – those that support them – actually have a good deal of confidence in the way these organizations manage themselves,” Tom Lengyel, director of research at the Alliance for Children and Families, says in a statement.

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