Project Synopsis

Indiana Nonprofits: Scope and Community Dimensions (Project Synopsis, 2007)

A Joint Project of the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA)

PI: Kirsten Grønbjerg, SPEA

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People working in nonprofit organizations as volunteers or paid staff often must make decisions and plan for the future based on anecdotal evidence, personal experience, or their own relationships and friendships because there is no well-documented, well-communicated view of the nonprofit sector in their region. What little research-based information is available is either focused on a given organization or type of nonprofit or is a national-level compilation of data that may not reflect state, regional or community conditions.

These are very poor information systems for assessing the capacity of a community’s nonprofit sector to respond appropriately to major policy developments (e.g., devolution, welfare reform) or other changes in community needs. The lack of good information on the numbers of nonprofits, their size, type, activities, funding sources, linkages, and management strengths severely hampers the capacity of philanthropic, public, and private sector leaders to develop effective, comprehensive, and collaborative solutions to community needs.

“Indiana Nonprofits: Scope and Community Dimensions” – a multi-phase, multi-year collaborative project – will fill these gaps and address major policy and management challenges faced by nonprofit organizations in Indiana (and elsewhere). The project will produce a comprehensive profile and database of nonprofit organizations in local communities, an assessment of how major public policy developments are affecting nonprofits in those communities, and a wealth of usable knowledge for practitioners in the field about their community’s nonprofit sector, about strategies for strengthening the sector and its connections to other organizations, and about how to respond in a systematic way to changes in public policy, funding, volunteer availability, or other environmental factors impacting the sector overall.

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Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources

Anticipated Outcomes

The Indiana Nonprofit Sector: Scope and Community Dimensions project brings together people at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and community leaders to examine carefully the scope and structure of the nonprofit sector in Indiana and in participating communities, and the nature of linkages among nonprofit organizations and other entities. The impacts of the project will occur on several levels.

At the community level, the project will:

  • Create a comprehensive listing of nonprofit organizations in Indiana and in participating communities in a web-based format to serve as the basis for an ongoing directory.
  • Improve knowledge within the participating communities about the scope, structure, and role of nonprofit organizations in the community, which will be shared for application elsewhere.
  • Engage local leaders from philanthropic and religious organizations in accessing the local knowledge base, enhancing their ability to recognize elements that are common to other communities and those that are unique to their own, thereby developing a better understanding of the strategic environment in which they operate and creating the basis for establishing appropriate benchmarks.
  • Create or further develop philanthropic infrastructures in participating communities by producing comprehensive listings of nonprofit organizations, knowledgeable practitioners and community leaders, researchers with expertise in nonprofit research, and university faculty able to bring philanthropic research and topics into the classroom.

The knowledge generated by this project will help Indiana philanthropic leaders, including congregational and religious leaders, understand their changing world, identify possible collaborators in other organizations, and address major challenges. More broadly, the project will:

  • Improve understanding of the sector generally and of major nonprofit information sources, using as study sites the state of Indiana and large and small communities in the state.
  • Promote the use of knowledge about the nonprofit sector nationally and within the state by building networks, sharing information, and assessing the potential benefits and drawbacks for some of the most widely used management practices in the nonprofit sector.
  • Enable the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University to develop curricular materials that integrate findings of the process and the study into existing training materials by developing training and education programming modules related to:
  • Funding (e.g. refining the case for support for fund raising)
  • Evaluation of effectiveness, especially for human service organizations
  • Management approaches for effective planning for funding, staffing, and budgeting
  • Community-based problem solving
  • Approaches for strategic planning specific to factors impacting nonprofit organizations, as the for-profit models used may not be applicable
  • Incorporating into coursework at Indiana University and through The Fund Raising School case studies to illustrate successful fund raising, management, response to crisis, and other elements of operating an organization in the nonprofit sector.
  • Developing an inventory of case studies that illustrate "best practices" which could be disseminated via publications, the Center's web site, and other means

The project will also address questions of particular concern to nonprofit researchers. Indiana shares key characteristics with many other states and the varieties of communities in the state provide an excellent opportunity to carry out an extensive, comparative project that will impact research in the field nationally, while also benefiting participating communities, by addressing the following types of questions:

  • What are the gaps and overlaps among major nonprofit institutional information sources available to researchers and practitioners, what biases are introduced into our understanding of the sector and its dynamics when using one or the other of these databases for studying the sector, and how do we compensate for those biases?
  • What is the scope and structure of the full complement of nonprofit organizations and what role do faith-based organizations (congregations, para-church organizations) play in the overall structure, compared to that of other charitable nonprofits, advocacy organizations, and membership associations?
  • How are devolution and other public policy changes affecting different types of nonprofits and the role of faith-based organizations?
  • What is the relationship between community characteristics and the scope and structure of the full nonprofit sector and the resource dynamics under which different types of organizations operate?
  • What is the structure of linkages and networks among nonprofits and faith-based organizations, and between them and other types of organizations (e.g., government, businesses) and how do these linkage structures vary by field of activity and across communities with different characteristics?
  • How do the dimensions and dynamics of linkages involving faith-based organizations compare to linkages with other types of organizations and what are the unique strengths and challenges associated with each?

Top | Introduction | Anticipated Outcomes | Project Description

Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources

Project Description

The project began in June 2000 and has produced a substantial body of research results. It includes five major phases.

  • Build and assess a comprehensive database of Indiana nonprofits. This work began in 2000 and the initial database was completed in 2001. Maintenance of the database is ongoing.
  • Survey Indiana nonprofits to determine the scope and structure of the Indiana Nonprofit Sector. This work began in 2002 and is ongoing.
  • Profile the nonprofit sector in participating communities and examine how the scope, structure and linkages of the community’s nonprofit sector relate to community social, political, economic, and cultural characteristics. This work began in 2003 and is ongoing.
  • Explore and compile other available sources of data on Indiana nonprofits. This work is ongoing.
  • Future work: conduct in-depth case studies of organizations, with particular attention to religious linkages and develop curriculum additions and adaptations.

Phase I: Build a Comprehensive Database of Indiana Nonprofits

This work combines the use of three major approaches for compiling a comprehensive database in order to obtain information about Indiana nonprofits.

Institutional Database Approach. This approach combines databases from available administrative sources to create a comprehensive listing of nonprofit organizations at the sub-national level, here the state of Indiana. We have integrated the following major institutional listings for the state, while flagging the source(s): (a) the IRS list of registered tax-exempt organizations under section 501(c), (b) the Secretary of State’s listing of incorporated nonprofits, and (c) listings of Indiana churches, congregations, temples, and mosques under those headings in the yellow pages of phone directories for the state. This work was completed as of June 2001.

Informant/Community-based Approach. This approach complements the institutional database approach for participating communities and serves as the “gold” standard for assessing the institutional databases. It involves a comprehensive effort to identify additional nonprofits in the community by making use of listings from all available local sources, e.g., key informants, newspapers, public library records, street surveys, information and referral agencies, public agencies, private funders (e.g., foundations, United Way, corporate giving programs), denominational listings, task forces, and phone directories. This approach yields a significantly larger universe of nonprofits than relying exclusively on IRS registration lists. This work was completed as of June 2001.

Personal Affiliation/Membership Approach. This approach uses a two-stage process by surveying a general sample Indiana residents about their personal affiliations with nonprofits and asking them to provide name and location information for Indiana nonprofits with which they are affiliated through their employment, membership or participation, or volunteering. In turn, this listing of nonprofits becomes a sample used to survey the organizations themselves. This work was completed as of July 2001.

The three approaches were combined in 2001 to create the first-ever, statewide comprehensive database of more than 59,000 Indiana nonprofits of all types. The database was updated in 2002 and 2005 with new records from the three institutional sources listed above (Internal Revenue Service list of tax-exempt entities, Indiana Secretary of State list of nonprofit incorporations, and yellow page listings of congregations). A partial update was completed in 2004 using only the two first of these listings. The database is now available in a searchable format at the Indiana Business Research Center. Future updates are planned.

Phase II: Profile the Indiana Nonprofit Sector

Because the database created in Phase I contains very limited information on Indiana nonprofits, we have completed several surveys of Indiana nonprofits in order to develop a comprehensive profile of the sector and assess its management challenges and capacities.

2002 Indiana Nonprofit Survey. The comprehensive database formed the basis for a survey of Indiana nonprofits, with expanded samples in participating communities. A total of 2,006 nonprofits of all types - congregations, charities, advocacy, and membership organizations - completed the survey in 2002. The survey focused on basic organizational characteristics (e.g., age, legal status, field of activity), the impact of community and policy changes, and on human resources, finances, and management information. Because of the importance of community collaboration and coordination, especially in the human service field and with faith-based organizations, the survey includes special efforts to examine inter-organizational linkages and networks. We expect the latter to have important implications for organizational resources. The survey data collection was completed in the fall of 2002 with analysis continuing through 2006. A total of six statewide reports have been completed.

Nonprofit Capacity Assessment. This survey was designed to develop a better understanding of capacity building and technical assistance needs among Indiana nonprofits. For Phase I, the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs was commissioned by the Indiana Grantmakers Alliance (IGA) in collaboration with the Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and Lumina Foundation for Education (LFE) to conduct a survey of Indiana grantees of LFE and/or associated members of IGA A total of 91 charities completed the Nonprofit Capacity Survey in 2007. The survey asks responding nonprofit organizations to identify their three most significant capacity building and technical assistance needs and the best ways to address them. It also examines seven broad categories of capacity building in order to establish which specific dimensions in each category present the most severe and/or widespread challenges. For each of the broad categories, we also ask respondents to indicate how helpful various types of funding, technical assistance, or peer learning would be in addressing the challenges. The first report in the series was completed in May 2007.

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Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources

Phase III: Community Profile Analysis

Community Nonprofit Survey Analysis. We have undertaken special analyses of the survey of nonprofits completed under Phase I to provide critical descriptive information about nonprofits in each of the participating communities. The purpose of this effort is to profile the full nonprofit sector in these communities, allow for comparisons among communities, and to develop the basis for identifying organizations and networks for more in-depth analysis planned for Phase III. The first five statewide survey reports included appendix tables with regional analysis. In addition, several stand-alone reports have been completed, profiling the nonprofit sector in selected communities. This work was complete in 2006.

Community Profile Analysis. In addition to describing the nonprofit sector in each participating community based on the nonprofit survey data, we also hope to undertake more in-depth community studies to provide a broader comparative context for our analyses. The specific purpose of this analysis is to examine the relationship between community characteristics, the scope and structure of the nonprofit sector, and the resource dynamics under which different types of nonprofits operate in various communities. Ideally, we would like to assess the communities’ social, demographic, and economic conditions; the business, political, religious, and philanthropic contexts; the history of the community and its major nonprofit sectors (e.g., religion, human services, health, civic affairs, community development, arts and culture, education, environment, philanthropy); and linkages and networks within and across these sectors and with the public and business sectors. This work ongoing. Preliminary work along these lines has mapped the distribution of nonprofits across the state's 92 counties and explored factors that account for variations in nonprofit density.

Phase IV: Supplementary Data Sources on Indiana Nonprofits

Since 2003 we have explored a range of other institutional sources of data on Indiana nonprofits. Initial work has focused on analysis of nonprofit employment in Indiana, using data from the Covered Employment and Wage Program (commonly known as the ES-202 program) compiled quarterly from almost all employers by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and prepared for us by the Indiana Business Research Center. Subsequent work will include analysis of financial information filed for IRS-registered charities on Form 990. Additional data will be included as they become available.

Phase V: Future Work

We hope to undertake in-depth case studies of nonprofits that illustrate major differences in the dynamics of organizational linkages, with particular attention to religious linkages. We plan to identify case-study organizations that differ across major conceptual dimensions: environmental context (e.g., field of operation), resource base, and nature of religious linkages. Ideally, we would like to undertake a full complement of case studies for each of the participating communities, but that will depend on available funding. We plan to focus these case studies on how the selected organizations initiate, develop, and terminate inter-organizational linkages, how they experience, use, and manage linkages, and the consequences of these efforts both for the organization’s own activities and resources and those of the network and local community.

Pending available funding, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University hopes to develop curricular modules based on the study's findings regarding the nonprofit sector and its methodological work for two audiences: The Fund Raising School and courses in fund raising and the nonprofit sector.

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Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources

Collaborative Structure

This is a collaborative project in several important ways. The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy is a lead institution for the project. The principal investigator (Kirsten Grønbjerg) and most of the local field associates across the state hold faculty appointments in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). Grønbjerg also holds the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

A statewide Advisory Board for the project and local advisory groups in several of the participating community provide collaboration and involvement with practitioners, researchers, and key nonprofit and philanthropic institutions across the state. The project will also involve consultation and information sharing with key national nonprofit institutions.

Participating Communities

Metropolitan areas: Indianapolis (Wolfgang Bielefeld, SPEA-IUPUI), Gary (Karen Evans, SPEA-IUN), Fort Wayne (Tom Guthrie, SPEA-IPFW), Evansville (Charles Harrington, formerly Academic Affairs, U. Southern Indiana), South Bend (Leda Hall, SPEA-IUSB), Bloomington (Kirsten Grønbjerg, SPEA-IUB), and Muncie (Bruce Geelhoed, Ball State U.). Non-metropolitan counties: Columbus/Bartholomew county (Fredericka Joyner, Consultant) and Cass, Dubois, Miami, and Scott counties from major regions of the state (Laurie Paarlberg, formerly SPEA-IUB).

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Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources

Funding Sources

Substantial funding for this project is being provided by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University through its Indiana Research Fund (with support from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.) and its ongoing support for the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy; the Efroymson Fund at the Indianapolis Foundation(an affiliate of the Central Indiana Community Foundation) through its support for the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy; the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University through its support for the Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy; and the Aspen Institute’s Nonprofit Sector Research Fund.

Additional funding has been provided by Ball Brothers Foundation, the Indiana University Foundation, and the Chancellor's Office at Indiana University Bloomington. Educational and other institutions in several of the participating communities have also provided in-kind and in some cases financial support for the project from sources available to them. These include the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment at IUPUI, the University of Southern Indiana, Ball State University, Indiana University Purdue University at Fort Wayne, Indiana University South Bend, Indiana University Northwest, Indiana University Bloomington – Chancellor’s Office, Indiana University Foundation, United Way of Monroe County, and WBH Evansville.

Top | Introduction | Anticipated Outcomes | Project Description

Collaborative Structure | Funding Sources