Center for Non-Profits survey: ‘Clear and persistent gap’ between demand, resources in N.J.

Linda Czipo. (File photo)

There’s a “clear and persistent gap” between the demand for programs and services provided by New Jersey’s nonprofit organizations and the lack of resources available to them to be able to provide those services, according to a new report by the Center for Non-Profits.

The survey, New Jersey Non-Profits 2018: Trends and Outlook, was conducted online in January to gauge the experiences, trends and expectations of the Garden State’s nonprofit groups. The survey tracks prior-year funding and expenses, outlook for the coming year and actions taken by nonprofits to address trends. The 2018 survey report is based on 252 New Jersey 501(c)(3) organizations.

The survey showed a continuing trend of the need for nonprofit programs and services, including:

  • A majority (71 percent) of respondents said the demand for services increased during the past year, and more than three-quarters (77 percent) expected demand to continue rising this year;
  • Two-fifths (42 percent) said they received more funding in 2017 over 2016, but more than half (56 percent) reported that expenses were higher than the previous year;
  • Roughly a quarter of respondents (28 percent) reported that support and revenue exceeded expenses during the most recently completed fiscal year;
  • Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) expected their total expenses to increase this year, but only 48 percent expected it to increase. About one-third (30 percent) expected total funding to remain the same as 2017, and 13 percent expected a decrease.

Linda M. Czipo, CEO and president of the center, said nonprofits not only improve lives by promoting vital programs and services, but are critical to the state’s economic engine as employers.

“If their ability to do that work is compromised, it has an impact on everyone,” Czipo said.

Survey respondents also reported a variety of actions taken to seek additional resources, such as funding and new volunteers.

Half reported that they were considering new partnerships in 2018, with 15 percent said they that might, or definitely would explore a merger in 2018, and 7 percent said they definitely would, or might, complete one.

About 45 percent said they are planning to add a special event or new programs, and nearly one-third (30 percent) planned to conduct more advocacy for their programs.

At the same time, responses seemed to reflect the uncertainty about the current economic and funding environment, with 34 percent saying that they might add staff in 2018, but only 13 percent plan to, and only 4 percent had already done so when the survey was taken.  One-quarter indicated that they might raise salaries, while 20 percent said that they might freeze or cut salaries.

Some of the greatest challenges to the viability of nonprofits in the state most frequently mentioned include:

  • The need for better branding (53 percent);
  • Financial uncertainty (45 percent);
  • Increased benefits/insurance costs (36 percent);
  • Inability to afford a good staff (31 percent);
  • Increased demand for programs (28 percent);
  • The need to increase advocacy/public policy (28 percent).

“Nonprofits continue to do extraordinary work under very challenging circumstances, but the stressors of chronic underfunding, the economic and public policy environment are all cause for concern,” Czipo said. “Expecting them to be able to ‘do more with less’ year in and year out is unsustainable and unrealistic. We need to foster a legislative and funding climate that will strengthen these organizations and programs for the good of our people and communities.”

Overall, roughly half (53 percent) of nonprofits said their overall circumstances had improved over the past year, but their outlook for the coming year was less positive than years prior. Forty-four percent expect their organizations circumstances to improve this year, with 9 percent saying it will get worse, and 35 percent said they can’t decide yet.