urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy Projects

Mapping the Fourth Sector Initiative
On January 15, the Fourth Sector Mapping Initiative held its first in-person gathering to discuss our progress to date and the next steps.  Over 200 researchers, leaders, investors and experts on for-benefit, social enterprises gathered to brainstorm strategies for data collection and collaboration in the next phase of the initiative.  View a full description of the project.

Nonprofit-Government Contracts and Grants: Findings from the 2013 National Survey
Expanding on the 2010 study of human service nonprofits, the 2013 report examines most types of nonprofits with expenses of $100,000 or more.  The report documents the size and scope of government financing, administration of contracts and grants, and nonprofit perceptions of problems and improvements in these processes and reports on the financial status of nonprofits in 2012.  The study also examines how human service nonprofits have managed since the recession ended and how their relationships with government agencies have changed since 2009.

The full report and state comparisons are available as free downloads.  Replay the webcast from the report launch event.

2010 National Survey of Nonprofit Government Contracting and Grants
The Urban Institute's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy reveals that with many contracts come major problems. Fifty-seven percent of the nonprofits, for instance, are bedeviled by contract changes, including cancellation, reduced payments, and postponement. Forty-one percent say government agencies made late payments.

The full report, research brief and state-by-state profiles are available as a free download.

Tax Policy and Charities
The Tax Policy and Charities project, a collaboration of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, analyzes the many interactions between the tax system and the charitable sector, with special emphasis on ongoing fiscal debates at both the federal and state levels. Our scope includes income and estate tax deductions for charitable giving; income- and property-tax exemptions for nonprofit organizations; and private foundation excise taxes, among other issues.

View a full description of the project, reports and upcoming events.

NCCS Community Platform
The Urban Institute's National Center for Charitable Statistics, with initial support from the Boston Foundation, has embarked on a major initiative, the NCCS Community Platform, to make our data on nonprofit organizations, along with other Urban Institute knowledge resources and interactive tools, useful at the state, municipal and neighborhood levels.

Download the NCCS Community Platform brochure.
View the NCCS Community Platform webinar.

The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute embarked on a new multiyear project to create an electronic portal that contains information on outcomes and effective practices for nonprofit leaders and philanthropic donors. Public and private funders increasingly require nonprofits to demonstrate their effectiveness. Unfortunately, the expertise and tools to do so are often not accessible to nonprofits, or not available at a price they can afford. The demand for guidance and resources led us to begin our work in nonprofit performance measurement.

About 18 months ago the Urban Institute joined forces with Child Trends and Social Solutions, a software firm, to develop the envisioned one-stop online portal that will have basic information on outcome indicators, logic models, evidence-based practices and general guidance on performance management. PerformWell will provide a full suite of materials for nonprofits seeking to begin measuring outcomes and targeted materials for nonprofits that are seeking indicators and tools to supplement their existing performance measurement efforts. In addition to an introduction to performance measurement, there will be references and links to the best materials that we can find. Nonprofits seeking indicators and measurement tools will be able to download those materials and import them to their spreadsheets.

Download and share the PerformWell brochure.
Feel free to peruse the website.
View PerformWell webinars.

The Outcomes Indicators Project
Everyone from funders to clients wants to know the results of their investment of time and money in nonprofits. Nonprofits, in turn, are eager to get their hands on tools to help them track and report their accomplishments more effectively. The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, along with the Center for What Works, has developed a common outcomes framework to help standardize approaches to performance measurement in the nonprofit sector. This web site contains a full description of our work, along with detailed lists of outcomes sequence charts and indicators available for download and adaptation by interested users.

Fundraising Effectiveness Project
The Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute and the Association of Fundraising Professionals established the Fundraising Effectiveness Project (FEP) to conduct research on fundraising effectiveness and help nonprofit organizations increase their fundraising results. Piloted in November 2006, FEP collects fundraising data from nonprofit organizations beginning with data for 2004-2005. The Fundraising Effectiveness Survey enables participating groups to measure and compare their fundraising gain and loss ratios to those of similar organizations.

FEP reports, papers and tools are available as free downloads.

Nonprofit Governance
Nonprofit boards are increasingly a focus of those interested in greater accountability and transparency, including policymakers, media, and the public. To help inform current policy debates and initiatives to strengthen nonprofit governance, in 2005 the Urban Institute conducted the first ever national representative survey of nonprofit governance, with over 5,100 participants.

The Future of Civil Society Initiative
In this project we are assessing the status of civic participation and advocacy in the United States, analyzing emerging nonprofits across the country, and conducting a pilot study of immigrant-serving organizations in the Washington DC metro region. Preliminary reports include:

Emerging Issues in Philanthropy Seminar Series
Convened twice a year in collaboration with the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, these discussion explore policy issues affecting nonprofits and philanthropy from diverse perspectives in a freewheeling exchange. Summaries are released as policy briefs.

Philanthropy Projects

Limited Life Foundations: Motivations, Experiences and Strategies by Francie Ostrower - Although most foundations are established in perpetuity, the limited life option is attracting more attention. This monograph helps fill a gap in the literature by examining the motivations, strategies, and experiences associated with the decision to "sunset" and comparing the attitudes and practices of perpetual and limited life foundations.

From Awareness to Action: A Case Study of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption's Philanthropic Strategyby Francie Ostrower

This case study examines The Dave Thomas Foundation's philanthropic strategy to enhancing its effectiveness, identifies lessons that may help other foundations, and draws implications for the respective roles of private and public initiative in addressing major social issues.

Effective Philanthropy - This study examines grantmakers' approaches to effectiveness and presents a typology of effectiveness models.

Foundation Expenses and Compensation - This is an assessment of the expense and compensation patterns of the nation's 10,000 largest independent, corporate, and community foundations (by giving).

Nonprofits after Hurricane Katrina
The Center developed projects to measure, track and provide information on the role of faith- and community-based organizations in rebuilding areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita. We published an assessment report in early 2006 and assembled a comprehensive bibliography of research for a November 2006 conference organized by Urban Institute and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations.

Arts and Culture
The Center conducted many studies on the status of arts and cultural organizations, cultural participation, the financial health of the arts and the value of artists and arts in communities. In February 2007, the Urban Institute sponsored a forum to discuss rebuilding the arts and culture community in New Orleans.