Scope & Impact

June 2017

On average, 79.3 percent of organizations’ expenditures went toward program-related expenses. Forty percent of organizations spent between 80 to 89 percent on program-related activities, and one quarter spent 90 to 99 percent.

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A majority (66 percent) of organizations report that they had positive net income* from operations last year. Among public charities, that figure climbs to 80 percent.

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Reporting Results

The push for increased transparency is growing throughout the nonprofit sector. Fifty-five percent of organizations said that some portion of their funders have required more information than was previously required, meaning organizations may be facing additional administrative burdens. However, over one-third (38 percent) of organizations report that their funding sources have not required more information. Meanwhile, about one in five (21 percent) HHS organizations said that nearly all—more than 76 percent—of their funding sources required more information. Just 3 percent of public charities report the same. 

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Reporting Challenges

Reporting impact and outcomes is a perennial challenge for nonprofit organizations. The top reporting challenge cited is the absence of a consistent framework for measuring and recording impact, named by 42 percent of organizations. Thirty-eight percent cite a lack of human resources to gather data as a top challenge to effective reporting. Unsurprisingly, organizations with revenue less than $25 million were more likely to name this challenge (48 percent) than those with revenue over $25 million (31 percent). Similarly, over one-third (35 percent) of the organizations surveyed name the inability to gather statistics related to impact. Forty-three percent of public charities report this as a top challenge.


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Reporting Methods

Most organizations surveyed leverage a variety of vehicles to communicate outcomes to stakeholders. Most organizations leverage both printed (78 percent) and online (71 percent) annual reports, along with direct communication to major donors (55 percent) and email communications to major donors (52 percent).

Organizations with revenue more than $25 million are more likely to send a printed annual report (82 percent) than those with revenue under $25 million (72 percent). Of those who mention using social media to communicate outcomes, 93 percent of organizations with revenue under $25 million name Facebook, compared to 88 percent of organizations with revenue over $25 million. Interestingly, 21 percent of organizations with revenue over $25 million use Instagram as a communication tool.

Despite the common perception that donors prefer digital communication over other methods, 82 percent of public charities leverage direct communication with major donors, compared to an average of 55 percent of organizations overall. However, 68 percent of public charities use email communication, compared to an average of 52 percent across all sectors. 

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