New study reveals what makes nonprofits special

Dec 06, 2012

Despite their diversity, U.S. nonprofits are in basic agreement that seven core values—being productive, effective, enriching, empowering, responsive, reliable, and caring—set the nonprofit sector apart from government and for-profit businesses, according to a new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies' Listening Post Project. Nonprofit leaders believe that stakeholders in government, the media, and the general public do not understand these values of the nonprofit sector—a situation that needs to be remedied to ensure the survival of the nonprofit sector in light of ongoing challenges.

This is a crucial time for around the country. As the federal government moves to avoid the fiscal cliff, proposals to reduce or cap the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions have become an increasingly common feature of budget-balancing measures from both ends of the political spectrum. And on the state and local levels, governments are imposing new taxes and fees on nonprofits in order to make ends meet. Meanwhile, shifts in government payment methods that advantage for-profit businesses have resulted in a reduction of nonprofit in many traditional nonprofit fields. Over the past decade, the nonprofit share of private employment has decreased by nearly 8 percent in social assistance, by 4 percent in education, and by 2 percent in health care as for-profit employment in those fields has expanded.

These ongoing challenges are not happening in a vacuum. Increasingly, the realities of nonprofit operations have diverged from the popular understanding of what a nonprofit is and how it operates. As Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies director Lester Salamon states: "In recent years, nonprofits have responded to the fiscal pressures they are under by becoming more commercial in their operations. But this has pulled them away from their traditional values and put their public support at risk. Now is therefore the time for nonprofits to renew their value commitments and to develop the tools needed to communicate those values to the sector's stakeholders in government, the public, and within the sector itself."

In order to start that process, the Johns Hopkins Listening Post Project conducted a first-ever survey to gauge the thinking within the nonprofit community around the sector's values. Over 750 nonprofits of various sizes operating in the three core nonprofit fields of human services, community development, and the arts responded to a survey asking them to rate how important a set of key values were to the operation of their organizations. The survey revealed widespread consensus around the sector's key values, important evidence that nonprofit organizations are embodying these values in their work, but also serious concerns about how effectively these values are being conveyed to important sector stakeholders.

By offering nonprofits a common set of words and concepts to frame the discussion of their public benefit, this research promises to help nonprofits better understand their own special value and to articulate it to key .

"These values reinforce the fact that the not-for-profit sector is an essential component of American society because it brings out the best in all of us," said Larry Minnix, President and CEO of LeadingAge and chairman of the Listening Post Project Steering Committee. "It is time for a not-for-profit spirit of renewal in our country where the sector reclaims its strengths, recommits to its unique responsibilities for the public good, and society recognizes the sector's enduring contributions in improving the quality of our lives. This Listening Post Project report on these values summarizes in new and fresh ways why and how the sector's mission is so important."

Explore further: Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

More information: The full text of the report "What do Nonprofits Stand For? Renewing the nonprofit value commitment," is available on the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies website at bit.ly/npvalues

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Nonprofits put brand at risk in corporate partnerships

Nov 13, 2009

Charities and other nonprofits may put their brand at risk when they partner with corporations on social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The public can easily construe such connections as a seal of approval of the corporation ...

Recommended for you

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

Newlyweds, be careful what you wish for

Apr 17, 2014

A statistical analysis of the gift "fulfillments" at several hundred online wedding gift registries suggests that wedding guests are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to buying an appropriate gift for the ...

Can new understanding avert tragedy?

Apr 17, 2014

As a boy growing up in Syracuse, NY, Sol Hsiang ran an experiment for a school project testing whether plants grow better sprinkled with water vs orange juice. Today, 20 years later, he applies complex statistical ...

Creative activities outside work can improve job performance

Apr 16, 2014

Employees who pursue creative activities outside of work may find that these activities boost their performance on the job, according to a new study by San Francisco State University organizational psychologist Kevin Eschleman ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

bertibus
2 / 5 (8) Dec 06, 2012
Self-serving PR.
Non-profits should be subject to every bureaucratic requirement that wealth-producing enterprises have to endure, and more.
They should also be heavily regulated as to salaries paid and all external commercial relationships.
rwinners
2 / 5 (4) Dec 07, 2012
One roadblock might be that the general population views non-profits as religions, or as other's religions, or as atheistic.
Communication is a key.

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.