News for Nonprofits

Volunteerism continues to decline

If your organization relies heavily on volunteers, the findings of a new report might reinforce what you’ve already suspected. According to the study from the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland, the share of Americans volunteering has been dropping since 2005, hitting a low of 24.9% in 2015.

The report explores how the national decline in volunteering has played out in all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) and 215 metro areas. Researchers say that 31 states saw significant declines in volunteering between 2004 and 2015 — and not a single state experienced a significant increase over that period.

The results suggest that volunteer-reliant organizations should carefully review their volunteer retention programs and bolster them as needed. With the numbers of volunteers dwindling, you can’t afford to take anyone for granted.

The overhead ratio: A poor measure of efficiency?

A study recently published in Nonprofit Management & Leadership finds that the metric most often used to assess the efficiency of nonprofits in accomplishing their missions isn’t only inaccurate — it’s sometimes negatively correlated with efficiency.

Researchers at North Carolina State University say the overhead ratio doesn’t measure efficiency because it doesn’t account for 1) how organizations use their resources and 2) what they accomplish with their nonoverhead spending. The report’s authors reached this conclusion after considering the overhead, programmatic and fundraising expenses of 666 Habitat for Humanity affiliates nationwide. They also looked at how many houses the group could offer low-income home buyers.

The researchers calculated the efficiency of each affiliate using two well-established tools for assessing efficiency. These scores were highly correlated: If one tool found an affiliate efficient, the other usually did, too. But when the overhead ratio was low — usually considered an indication of efficiency — results were negatively correlated with both tools.

Report assesses disaster philanthropy

Disasters and humanitarian crises affect millions of people every year, prompting donors to dig deep into their pockets to help victims. A new report documents $30 billion in private, public, corporate and individual giving for major global disasters and humanitarian crises in 2016.

The Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s annual report, Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2018: Data to Drive Decisions, provides information on funding trends and where and how contributions are used. For example, natural disasters accounted for 44% of disaster funding, and man-made accidents (such as the Flint, Michigan, water crisis) received 15% of the funding. More than 40% of funding went for response and relief, while 17% was for reconstruction and recovery.