Tuesday, December 22, 2009

LPP year in review

It's been a busy and exciting year for the Listening Post Project.  Thanks to our dedicated partners and Listening Post organizations, we were able to achieve the following:
  • The finding of our Health Benefits Sounding that three out of every four nonprofits offering health benefits have experienced an increase in their total direct health insurance costs during the past year helped convince the Senate to include provisions to assist nonprofits in its healthcare reform bill;
  • Our Pensions Benefits Sounding was used by staff of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (the HELP Committee) to help kick off a set of hearings on pensions;
  • Our Sounding on nonprofit policy priorities led to the Forward Together Declaration endorsed by hundreds of nonprofit leaders across the country and used to help convince Congress to include a new nonprofit capacity-building  program in the Serve America Act;
  • Our shovel-ready nonprofit infrastructure Sounding, which documented $166 billion worth of "shovel-ready" nonprofit projects, has been used by state nonprofit assocations across the country to help nonprofits get access to state decisions on Economic Recovery funding.
The project also:
  • Created a customized report function that enables us to provide each Sounding participant with a quick snapshot of how their organization's responses to key questions compare to the national average and to similar organizations;
  • Added a new intermediary group to our project, the Corporation for National and Community Service; 
  • Redesigned our website and project logo, and started use of social networking technologies such as blogging and Twitter.  Hits on our website are now averaging 50-60,000 per month;
  • Convened a second successful Roundtable on nonprofit advocacy and lobbying.  
We plan on building on this success with an important Sounding on nonprofit innovations and performance measurement in early January.  This survey responds to a request we received from the White House Office of Social Innovation to document innovations being pursued by nonprofits across the country and the metrics being used to assess them.

Without the support of our intermediaries and member organizations, none of our accomplishments this year would have been possible.  We look forward to working with you in 2010 and the years ahead. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We're listening -- give us your thoughts on future Soundings!

The Listening Post Project seeks to “take the pulse” of the nonprofit sector by fielding surveys on timely issues for nonprofits and making sure the findings are broadly disseminated to the sector and beyond.
In the past year, we have covered cutting-edge topics such as what nonprofits want from the new presidential administration and how they are faring in the economic downturn.  Most recently we have gathered extremely valuable data on the state of nonprofit healthcare benefits and pensions, which have been instrumental in helping to get nonprofits on the national policy agenda.  As 2010 approaches, we want to ensure the Listening Post Project remains at the forefront of knowledge-gathering for the nonprofit sector. 
We will be fielding a survey on nonprofit innovations and performance measurement in early January.  What are some topics you would like to see in following Soundings?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Entrepreneurship: strategy for nonprofit success?

The Listening Post Project’s survey on the economic downturn’s effects on nonprofits found that more than half of respondents increased their fundraising efforts and decreased their administrative costs in an effort to keep their organizations afloat.  Less than half pursued entrepreneurial strategies such as expanding their marketing and advocacy efforts or starting a for-profit subsidiarity.  However, these respondents were more likely than all organizations to report “successful” or “very successful” financial performance.   The Listening Post Project wants to know:  What are your experiences with entrepreneurial strategies, and do you feel they are more successful than belt-tightening and fundraising efforts?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Retiring Retirement Benefits

Our most recent Sounding found that the majority of retirement benefit programs at nonprofits are under stress at the present time. Nonprofits offering “defined benefit plans” (plans with a guaranteed benefit) have been particularly hard hit, with 76 percent reporting that their plans are currently under stress and 43 percent reporting severe or very severe stress. Even those offering “defined contribution plans” (plans with investments controlled by the employee and no guaranteed benefit) have been affected, however, with 58 percent reporting that their plans are under stress. As a result, organizations have been forced to reduce retirement benefits, scale back employer matches, end future benefit accruals, and deny pension coverage to new employees, or as a last resort, divert resources from program operations. Many smaller organizations have been prevented from offering pension benefits at all.

How do these results compare to your organization’s retirement benefits situation? For organizations that have avoided such stress, how have you done it? For organizations experiencing similar stress, what strategies are you employing to help cope?