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Hint of nonprofit recovery seen

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The nonprofit sector is starting to show a glimmer of growth in the face of the tough economy and growing demand for services, a new survey says.

Nonprofit executive directors of half of 102 organizations surveyed by the Bridgespan Group said their revenues had begun to creep back in the past year.

And 60 percent say they actively are recruiting newly available talent, compared to only 31 percent last year.

“Nonprofits are working hard to stay afloat and meet the demand,” Alan Tuck, a Bridgespan partner, says in a statement.

Among organizations surveyed, 84 percent have seen an increase in demand for their services since the start of the recession, compared to 58 percent in November 2009 and just 30 percent in November 2008.

Among nonprofits that provide direct services, 73 percent served more people, while 70 percent increased their level of service.

Only 32 percent of respondents received funding cuts in 2010, compared to 80 percent in 2009, and of those that received cuts, only half experienced cuts of more than 10 compared, compared to 2009, when 77 percent of funding cuts were more than 10 percent.

Among nonprofits that have seen their revenue increase, growth has been distributed unevenly, the survey says, with smaller nonprofits having a tougher time.

Sixty-three percent of nonprofits that experienced growth saw revenue increase by 10 percent or more, while 29 percent saw growth of 20 percent or more.

Among nonprofits that experienced growth, 36 percent were more likely to create a communication plan to address issues related to the recession; 23 percent were more likely to increase their efforts to accurately measure outcomes; 23 percent were more likely to develop a contingency plan; and 22 percent were more likely to collaborate on programs of other organizations.

“Whether the improvements we have witnessed in the sector constitute the beginning of a rebound or merely show a temporary reprieve from the economic storm remains to be seen,” says Tuck. “What is clear, though, is that despite the challenges, some groups not only are surviving, but they are also experiencing growth and thriving.”

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