2014 Philanthropic Landscape: Local Charities Report Good Times Returning

PHILANTHROPIC LANDSCAPE 2014
“Diving Into Data: 
What, Why and How to Use It for Success”

Sponsored by The Rome Group,
 with the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation 
and the Gateway Center for Giving



ST. LOUIS, July 17, 2014 –  Nearly three of every four nonprofits in a recent survey of St. Louis area organizations reported meeting their fundraising goals in 2013, with two-thirds saying they raised more money last year than in 2012. The percentages are the highest reported since 2007, before the recession. Further, they reflect a national uptick in charitable giving, as reported in the latest Giving USA report, which noted total giving in the U.S. in 2013 was $335.17 billion, up 4.4 percent from 2012, or 2.7 percent after adjusting for inflation. In a further sign of optimism, 59 percent of local nonprofits believe they will raise even more money in 2014. The results are part of annual surveys of area nonprofits and local institutional and individual grantmakers, conducted by The Rome Group, a local consulting firm, in partnership with the Gateway Center for Giving and the Greater St. Louis Community Foundation. A total of 216 nonprofits and 95 grantmakers of all sizes completed the surveys. The results of the surveys were to be presented to an audience of almost 500 attendees at The Rome Group’s annual Philanthropic Landscape event on July 17 at Washington University’s Edison Theater. “Despite the hardships during the recent recession, charitable giving, both locally and nationally, continues to grow steadily,” said Amy Rome, principal and founder of The Rome Group. “In fact, total giving adjusted for inflation is up 150 percent over the past 40 years. Our latest survey demonstrates that philanthropy is benefitting from a stronger economy, and that’s good for all of us.”

Among the institutional grantmakers (primarily corporate and private foundations) surveyed, 83 percent reported they funded the same number or more organizations in 2013 than in 2012, and 92  percent expect their 2014 dollar contributions to be as high or higher. Ninety-three percent of  individual donors (including family foundations and donor advised funds) funded at least as many  organizations in 2013, and 70 percent will give as much or more this year. A majority of both groups is also now open to accepting grant proposals from previously unfunded organizations.

“These are the strongest numbers we’ve seen since the recession of 2008,” said Amelia Bond, president and CEO of the Community Foundation. “We are seeing a return to optimism among funders of all types,” added Deb Dubin, president and CEO of the Gateway Center. “Virtually every sub-sector is benefitting from the resurgence in philanthropic activity.”

According to the surveys, the biggest challenge facing nonprofits in 2014 continues to be meeting demand for services with current staffing levels. Cutbacks in staff and other resources during the recession are still impacting many nonprofits,” explained Rome. Nonprofits also expressed concern about the need to provide better data and measurements on program impact. That prompted the theme of this year’s Philanthropic Landscape event: Diving into Data.

“There is a growing interest in the use of data,” noted Rome. “Funders are asking for it. Board members expect it. Individual donors want proof their gifts are having an impact. The important thing, however, is for organizations to find ways to use data not only to satisfy their stakeholders, but also to measure effectiveness and efficiency, along with results and impact. “The challenge,” she added, “is that nonprofits often do not have adequate time, staffing or training to analyze and translate data to use for decision-making.” While 87 percent of survey respondents reported collecting data of all types, “many of them admit they are not really using it effectively to make program improvements or to raise more money.”

The grantmakers survey reported similar findings. “Most of the nonprofits our donors support do a good job of collecting data on the need for their programs and services,” said Bond. “But there is a gap in understanding as to whether or not nonprofits are using this data to improve their programs.” Dubin added that a majority of funders who responded to the survey appear to have doubts that nonprofits have the necessary staff, skills or technology to do effective data management. “Unfortunately, respondents told us they are either unwilling or unsure about supporting a specific request to fund data collection and analysis. That shows us that nonprofits can do a better job of selling the need for data and proving its long-term value.”

The Philanthropic Landscape event featured a keynote presentation on this topic by Carolyn Roby, senior vice president with Wells Fargo Foundation in Minnesota.  Four local philanthropic leaders then joined her in a panel discussion, including:

• Charles Gasper, director of evaluation for the Nine Network;

• Rhonda Gray, executive director of Almost Home;

• Melinda McAliney, program director for Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis; and

• Kristine Ramsey, senior vice president of development at Wyman Center.

The results of The Rome Group’s surveys can be viewed at www.theromegroup.com, and click here to access a list of data resources.

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