Survey shows increased financial optimism among local nonprofits

Large organizations more confident about future than smaller organizations

The results of a survey completed by Milwaukee nonprofit leaders released Tuesday by the Public Policy Forum showed increased financial optimism among large local nonprofits and education organizations, suggesting much of the financial anxiety that plagued the industry during the Great Recession — when donors and businesses were more cautious with contributions — may have come to an end.

“The region’s nonprofits are enjoying far greater fiscal stability and enhanced optimism about the state of philanthropy – and about their own organizations’ future – than we observed when we last surveyed nonprofit leaders in 2011,” the report reads.

Titled “Back on Track,” the survey was conducted online in July 2016 and received responses from 154 nonprofits within the Milwaukee metropolitan area, which includes Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Waukesha and Washington counties. Compared to the results of a similar survey completed in 2011, roughly half as many nonprofit leaders reported cost cutting over the past five years.

In 2011, 60 percent of survey respondents reported “substantially reduced annual expenditures over the past five years,” compared to 31 percent in the most recent survey.

More than half of nonprofit leaders surveyed also reported increased giving from individual donors over the past five years.

But the results weren’t all positive. Leaders of small local nonprofits showed far less confidence than their larger counter parts.

“Larger nonprofits and those in the education subsector appear to exhibit far more confidence than smaller organizations and those in most other subsectors,” the report’s lead author, Anne Chapman, said in a statement. “We also find that notwithstanding the sense of greater fiscal stability conveyed by a solid majority of respondents, both individual and institutional donors can expect a steady pipeline of fundraising appeals stemming from numerous major fund development campaigns on the horizon.”

Other major challenges were also noted by survey respondents, including donor recruitment and raising money for capital improvements.

Nearly 75 percent of nonprofit leaders who participated in the survey also reported an increase in demand for services, but only 42 percent said charitable giving to their organization had risen enough to keep pace with the rise in demand.

Click here to read the full report.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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