Advancing Urban Policy:
Nonprofit Administration and Leadership  March, 2013

This edition of Advancing Urban Policy, the monthly e-newsletter of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, features research and thought leadership from across the country related to Nonprofit Administration and Leadership. It highlights articles on the role of nonprofits in times of community crisis and in public-private partnerships, the environment for honest discussions about impact, the value of listening to a nonprofit's "customers," staff turnover, and more. Future editions will feature topics related to City Management (April), Environmental Policy/Management (May), and Public Finance & Budgeting (June). We welcome your ideas and submissions. They may be sent to:

Edward (Ned) W. Hill, Ph.D., Dean


Value of Nonprofits in Times of Crisis Validated  


An op-ed in the February 25, 2013, issue of The New York Times stresses the value of neighborhood-based nonprofits and neighborhood volunteerism to the urban renewal efforts after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Through conversations with author and student of "urban regeneration" Roberta Gratz, columnist Joe Nocera notes that, despite admonitions that the lower ninth ward neighborhood of New Orleans should not be rebuilt, the residents and local nonprofits led the effort of rebuilding the city. Nocera highlights a similar situation in the stretch of New York coastal towns known as the Rockaways. Mostly, people helped other people. Churches donated space where victims could get staples. And the impact of nonprofit organizations was felt everywhere. The Nonprofit Quarterly takes the point a step farther by noting that Nocera's column is a good reminder of the importance of neighborhood-based nonprofits and neighborhood volunteerism. "It is often up to community-based nonprofits to call city agencies--and their large regional or national nonprofit partners--to account for their lackluster responses to neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward and the Rockaways."  


The Role of Nonprofits in Public-Private Partnerships


Since the 1980s, public policymakers and contracting agents in the United States have promoted the concept of public-private partnerships (PPPs). These are typically seen as partnerships between the public and business sectors, but research finds that nonprofit intermediary institutions--either created for the purpose or already in existence--are often what makes it possible for PPPs to function and realize their potential. Nonprofits of this kind provide a "third space" in which PPPs can be formed, implemented, and sustained; they may also serve as value guardians of the PPP process. "Putting the NP in PPP" (Public Performance and Management Review, Vol. 35, No. 4), prepared by the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, describes the essential but little credited role of nonprofit organizations in PPPs in Cleveland, Ohio. Seven case examples illustrate the often-overlooked role of nonprofits and increase understanding of the character and distinctiveness of PPPs within American civil society. Public managers, policymakers, and others concerned about the performance and management of PPPs, and desiring to stimulate their formation, will be well served to recognize the processes and players that nurture and bring together public sector and private business actors with nonprofits in the facilitation and institutionalization of PPPs. (Full article for purchase)


 Development Director Positions Have High Turnover


A new national study reveals that many nonprofit organizations are stuck in a vicious cycle that threatens their ability to raise the resources they need to succeed.  A joint project of CompassPoint and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, this first-ever study found high levels of turnover and lengthy vacancies in development director positions throughout the sector, as well as deeper organizational issues, including the absence of basic fundraising systems and a lack of shared responsibility for fund development among key board and staff leaders at many organizations. With guidance and input from a national advisory group of fund development experts, CompassPoint surveyed more than 2,700 executive directors and development directors across the country. The research effort also included 11 focus groups with executive directors, development directors, and nonprofit board members. The participants' organizations were notably diverse, but all had in common a senior-level development staff position, even if that position was vacant at the time of the study. The report,UnderDeveloped: A National Study of Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, describes three main challenges:

  • Organizations often pin their hopes and dreams for fundraising on one person--the development director. Yet the study found high turnover and long vacancies in this position.
  • Organizations aren't finding enough qualified candidates for development director jobs. Executives also report performance problems and a lack of basic fundraising skills among key development staff. 
  • Beyond creating a development director position and hiring someone who is qualified for the job, organizations and their leaders need to build the capacity, the systems, and the culture to support fundraising success. The findings indicate that many nonprofits aren't doing this.


concludes by offering a set of calls to action, key steps that nonprofits and their supporters can take. 


Do NPOs Listen to their "Customers"?


Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2013, asks why nonprofit organizations don't place greater value on the voices of those they seek to help--their most important constituents. "Listening to Those Who Matter Most, the Beneficiaries" notes that nonprofits and foundations turn to various sources for valuable insights and advice--including experts and crowdsourcing--but too often they ignore the constituents who matter most, the intended beneficiaries of their work. They, thereby, deprive themselves of insights into how they might do better based on the day-to-day experiences of the people the programs are created for. The article notes that, in the business sector, the consequence of not listening to customers often is a reduction in sales and profits. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are not generally paid by their "customers" and tend to focus on gaining meaningful feedback from funders instead. This article provides examples in education and health care where the perspective of beneficiaries is systematically solicited and used to guide program and policy decisions. The authors look at the value of the information and what makes it useful, and the challenges to beneficiary feedback that are specific to the social sector. 


Is Kindness "Killing" Nonprofits?


The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that nonprofit leaders say

kindness is killing philanthropy and find that a lack of candor in the field is leading to a lack of honest debate and bad fiscal decision making. According to Albert Ruesga, president of the Greater New Orleans Foundation, "kindness keeps me from telling you, in the clearest possible terms, that your five-year, $2 million initiative to end homelessness is well-intentioned magical thinking at best and boneheaded ignorance at worst." While some do not agree, others challenge the traditional belief that nonprofits' positive social missions should spare them criticism. Dwindling resources and high expectations make honest appraisals more important than ever. James Canales, president of the James Irvine Foundation, notes that people are increasingly looking into organizations' performance and younger nonprofit employees tend to ask tougher questions about the impact of nonprofit work. Vignetta Charles, senior vice president of AIDS United, agrees that it's important to have honest discussions about which nonprofits ought to "merge, grow, or go." Mr. Karnofsky, founder of GiveWell, worries about a "society-wide culture where people focus on good intentions rather than good results."  


Online Giving Soars


The Nonprofit Times reports that online giving soared 13.7 percent amid a 3.6-percent spike in overall giving during this past January compared to the same period in 2012, according to the latest Blackbaud index. Small organizations saw the biggest spike in giving in January, up 7.6 percent, better than twice the increase of large (2.3 percent) and medium (3 percent) organizations. All three categories saw double-digit spikes in online giving, led by medium organizations, which jumped 16.9 percent while small nonprofits were up 12.7 percent and large charities up 11.2 percent online. All seven subsectors within the index saw double-digit hikes in online giving, while just two subsectors failed to see positive growth in overall giving. Public, society benefit organizations were down 7.8 percent compared to January 2011 yet spiked 16 percent in online giving, and environment/animal welfare was down barely (-0.2 percent) but up 15.3 percent online. International affairs had the biggest increase, up 18.1 percent overall, with an 11.9-percent jump online. K-12 independent schools had the largest rise in online giving, 23.3 percent, while overall giving was up 3.7 percent. Other sectors fared well: arts and culture organizations jumped 6.9 percent overall and 13.3 percent online; healthcare groups were up 5.9 percent, 12.1 percent online, and human services, up just 0.7 percent overall yet 18.3 percent online. Blackbaud is a Charleston S.C fundraising and software firm that tracks more than 3,000 organizations that use its software, and make up $ 8 billion in annual charitable giving. The index is updated on the first of each month and is based on year-over-year percentage changes. The index features overall and online giving and can be viewed by size and subsets of the nonprofit industry.  


Should NPOs "Run in Place Alone or Move Forward Together"?


Discussions about merging, partnering, cost-sharing, and other significant operational changes among nonprofits are taking place around the country. Last year in Chicago, four small nonprofit dance companies created Flyspace, an umbrella organization through which they share resources and administrative duties for marketing and audience building functions--and today they're reaping the benefits. According to a February 14 article in Crain's Chicago Business, the four local nonprofit dance companies--Dance COLEctive, Hedwig Dances, Same Planet/Different World Dance Theatre, and Zephyr Dance--each have budgets of less than $250,000 a year and each is headed by a one-woman leader.FlySpace helps them "raise the collective visibility of all four companies and raise the visibility for contemporary dance in general in Chicago." A representative summed it up by saying, "It makes no sense to run in place alone when you can grab the hand of a like organization and move forward together. Smaller arts organizations will really find coming together to pool their resources is going to benefit them tremendously. I think this is the future because we all want to survive and continue our work." See also coverage in Nonprofit Quarterly.  
Survey Shows Church Names Impact on Attendance Goes Both Ways 

When a church does not reference its denomination in the church name, "unchurched" people tend to see that church as less formal, rigid, and old-fashioned, but this also makes them feel more uncertain and wonder whether the church is trying to hide its beliefs. Study findings released by Grey Matter Research, a research and consumer insights company in Phoenix, AZ, among a demographically representative sample of 773 American adults examine the impact of including or excluding a denominational reference in church names. Most churches that are part of a denomination include a denominational reference in their name, but some avoid such references. Grey Matter Research asked people who do and who do not regularly attend a denominational Protestant church about the impact of a church including a denominational reference in its name. The research reveals that the decision to include or exclude a denominational reference in the name is a two-edged sword, with advantages and disadvantages to both choices. Reactions to denominational names differ significantly by age; in general, older Americans are more comfortable with denominational church names than are younger people, while adults under the age of 35 are much more divided over this issue. Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that churches take some risk either way, but this research will help them understand the potential impact of each choice.

Prioritizing Leadership


The Initiative for Nonprofit Talent and Leadership aims to prioritize leadership as one of the most effective means to catalyze transformational results for thriving communities. Its vision is for communities to be thriving, healthy, sustainable, and fueled by a diverse network of inspired and innovative leaders. Its Theory of Change is that valuing nonprofit talent and leadership through focused investment of time, attention, and resources is one of the most effective ways to catalyze transformational results for thriving communities. The Initiative invites engagement by organizations across the sector. Share your ideas by answering three questions. The Initiative is an effort by a coalition of cross-sector leaders including American Express, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Aspen Institute Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation, Center for Creative Leadership, Common Good Careers, Corporation for National and Community Service, Public Allies, and Rudin Family Foundations, among others.  


Advancing Urban Policy:
Nonprofit Administration & Leadership
was created with counsel from Stuart Mendel, Ph.D., and Edward Hill, Ph.D.; compiled by Hama Bbela, graduate assistant; edited by Roslyn Miller, consultant.


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