Nonprofits Are Being Required to Provide Hard Facts to Get Funding
August 10, 2009, The Plain Dealer — Pressure has never been so great for nonprofits to prove their worth. For groups seeking grants and donations, it's no longer enough to have a charismatic director or a touching story to tell.
These days, nonprofit agencies had better produce statistics to show they are accomplishing their mission if they want to compete for dwindling charitable dollars.
Staying alive: How 3 area nonprofits crunch numbers
And while it is inconvenient to chase after program participants with evaluation forms and surveys, some nonprofits are learning the information they're collecting has helped them improve.
The latest news release from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland gives an example of the changing playing field. The release touts hard facts, not heartwarming tales.
It says that adults who were mentored as children through Big Brothers Big Sisters tend to be better educated and wealthier and have stronger relationships than peers of a similar background not mentored by the agency, according to a study conducted last spring by Harris Interactive.
In today's market, there's no better way to advertise than with strong statistics like these, provided by the national office, said local chapter President Margaret Mitchell. "Funders and donors want to know that their investment has a return," she said.
A number of factors are sparking the shift, most notably the dismal economy, which is causing foundations and government agencies to demand that nonprofit groups demonstrate a successful track record. Individual donors are becoming savvier too, using the Internet more to research nonprofits.
Many experts also say the tidal wave of community activism that swept President Barack Obama into office is still having an effect. The White House's Social Innovation office, set up to promote fresh ways of fixing old problems, has a heavy emphasis on measuring results.