December 11, 2012  

New Report-What Do Nonprofits Stand For? Renewing the Nonprofit Value Commitment

This is a crucial time for nonprofits around the country. As the federal government moves to avoid the fiscal cliff, reduce or cap the federal tax deduction for charitable contributions, which 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 market share 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. A new report, What do Nonprofits Stand For? Renewing the Nonprofit Value Commitment, funded in part by Carnegie Corporation of New York, gauges the thinking within the nonprofit community around the sector’s values.
 
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.

Read more