The ninth Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey asked nonprofit leaders about their organizations’ programmatic, operational, and financial health and experiences during 2020-2021 and their expectations for 2022. The 2022 survey was conducted in partnership with EVITARUS and Ambit 360, who provided input on study design, outreach strategies, and questionnaire construction, as well as oversight on survey administration, data analysis, and interpretation of findings.
As in past years, our core lines of research inquiry included:
- What is the state of service demand?
- Are nonprofits able to meet the demand for their services?
- Are nonprofits able to access the capital they need?
- What are the current challenges for nonprofits and the communities they serve?
- What programmatic and organizational actions are nonprofits taking and planning to take?
The 2022 Survey was expanded to examine these additional questions:
- In what ways were nonprofits affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
- In what ways were nonprofits affected by the uprising for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd?
- What are the experiences of BIPOC-led organizations, and how do these experiences compare to those of white-led organizations, particularly around funding?
- What specific steps have nonprofits taken to address diversity, equity, and inclusion?
How the Survey Was Conducted
NFF engaged SSRS, a leading national survey research organization in Glen Mills, PA, to collect the survey data using their online platform. Respondents remained anonymous unless they chose to identify themselves.
The Survey opened on Jan. 19, 2022, and closed on March 4, 2022, remaining open for a timeframe similar to those of previous Survey years. NFF first conducted this Survey in 2009.
Target Populations and Methods of Outreach
This is a sector-wide Survey. NFF invites senior leaders of all active US 501(c)(3) organizations to participate. Outreach and promotion are broad community efforts in collaboration with many partners, including other nonprofits, funders, associations, umbrella organizations, and many more.
Outreach comprised multiple mass and targeted emails, personal outreach, social media campaigns, and promotion by NFF and many partner organizations who utilized NFF’s outreach kit. Several reminder emails were sent post-launch.
Unlike past State of the Nonprofit Sector surveys, special outreach efforts were made to recruit target populations of particular importance to the analytic goals of this survey.
- To allow longitudinal comparisons of survey results from the 2018 and 2022 surveys, respondents who took the survey in 2018 and consented to be recontacted were directly contacted and encouraged to complete the 2022 survey. Eligible respondents were provided $50 compensation for completing the survey.
- To allow robust comparisons to be made between nonprofits led by Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) and those led by Non-Hispanic Whites, special efforts were made to identify and reach out directly to BIPOC-led organizations encouraging them to complete the survey. Eligible respondents were provided $50 compensation for completing the survey.
- To allow in-depth analysis of Los Angeles-area nonprofits, special efforts were made to identify and reach out to LA-area organizations encouraging them to complete the survey. Eligible respondents were provided $50 compensation for completing the survey.
- The LA component of the survey was conducted in partnership with the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at California State University – Los Angeles, who took the lead on study design, outreach strategies, questionnaire construction, and data analysis. This included the formation of the LA Advisory Group, consisting of leaders from five LA-area nonprofits, one foundation, and the Committee for Greater LA who were instrumental in developing LA-specific survey questions, identifying networks that encouraged survey participation, and interpreting survey results.
The Survey contained 62 questions and included mandatory, optional, branch, multiple-choice, and open-ended items. For tracking purposes, the 2022 Survey retained 31 questions from the 2018 Survey.
To ensure that we were intentionally integrating the priorities and concerns of BIPOC-led organizations into the survey, we developed a Statement of Purpose to guide our efforts. In it, we outlined five guiding principles that informed our goals as well as specific objectives we hoped to accomplish in the course of our research.
Prior to fielding the 2022 Survey, we reached out specifically to nonprofit leaders of color to get input on the issues they wanted to see addressed. We collected feedback via direct commenting on the survey instrument and group feedback calls. Incorporating their feedback, we developed a questionnaire designed to capture a “before and since COVID-19" financial snapshot of nonprofits; measure racial equity in nonprofit finance by comparing the experiences of organizations led by people of color to the experiences of white-led organizations; and take a closer look at the experiences of Los Angeles-area nonprofits.
Question topics included in both 2018 and 2022:
- Key organizational demographics (e.g., sub-sector/work focus, location, size/operating expenses)
- State of demand for services and ability to meet it
- Finances at the end of the most recently completed fiscal year
- Revenue and revenue mixes in the most recently completed fiscal year
- Experience with government grants or contracts
- Operational/programmatic actions taken in the most recently completed fiscal year and planned for the following 12 months
- Debt use
- Critical challenges facing communities served
Additional topics addressed in 2022:
- Population groups served directly and intentionally
- Actions taken to address diversity, equity, and inclusion
- How the COVID-19 pandemic affected organizational demand and funding
- How the uprisings for racial justice following the murder of George Floyd affected organizational service demand and funding
- New ways of working in the wake of the pandemic
- Unrestricted funding
NFF establishes a minimum threshold of questions that respondents must answer for their responses to be included in the analyses. For the 2022 Survey, this threshold was completion of the first 21 survey questions, which included a core organizational profile (state, zip code, sub-sector, operating expenses) plus information about organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion. After removing incomplete, duplicate, and invalid responses, the final sample size was 1,168.
Because of conditional (branching) questions and question-level nonresponse, the number of responses (N) varies by question. Calculations use as N the number of respondents for each individual question item as appropriate. For instance, a single question about government revenue includes separate Ns for federal, state, and local government.
Respondents could select more than one answer to certain questions: in those cases, the resulting percentages sum to more than 100 percent.
Limitations to the Data & Analysis
NFF used a nonprobability selection method to invite nonprofit leaders to complete the Survey, and results therefore reflect the responses of nonprofit leaders who heard about the Survey and elected to respond. This creates a probable voluntary response bias from nonprofit leaders who chose to participate.[i]
As with all self-reported data, there remains an inherent risk of inconsistent and inaccurate data reporting. Survey respondents reflect a convenience sample and the results have not been weighted, so findings may not be representative of the nonprofit sector as a whole and may over- or understate differences between demographic or other respondent groups. In particular, the survey over-represents larger nonprofits (with annual expenses of more than $1 million), as well as nonprofits located in the Western region of the U.S. (Los Angeles, specifically). Weights designed to adjust for organization size and region turned out to have very little effect on the results for the total sample (resulting in differences of no more than 3 percentage points across all survey questions). For this reason, we decided to present unweighted results, while being transparent about known differences between sample and population characteristics.
Finally, except for the 311 respondents who took the survey in both 2018 and 2022, this dataset should be treated as a snapshot capturing a moment in time, and not considered longitudinal.
[i] Voluntary response bias can occur when respondents are allowed to freely opt-in to participate in a survey. Frequently those who volunteer to respond have stronger opinions on a given subject matter than the general population.