Exploring Data Use in Nonprofit Organizations

Dr. Robert L. Fischer, Case Western Reserve University
Dr. Robert L. Fischer

Dr. Robert L. Fischer
Associate Professor, Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences; and Co-Director, Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development
Case Western Reserve University

Exploring Data Use in Nonprofit Organizations
Evaluation and Program Planning
Volume 97, April 2023, 102197

Organizations around the world have increasingly employed data for a variety of purposes, and nonprofit organizations are no exception. Exploring Data Use in Nonprofit Organizations, authored by Robert L. Fischer and Duncan J. Mayer, PhD candidate at the Mandel School, reviews the use of data in nonprofit organizations, including the types of data collected and accessed, the motivations for data capture, and the barriers to systematic use of data. The literature shows that nonprofit organizations capture a variety of data, including public and financial data, performance measures, program evaluation data, and volunteer information. Organizations use these with diverse motivations such as program or organizational improvement, marketing, and accountability. Prominent barriers faced by organizations include challenges in identifying meaningful information, lack of technical ability, inability to prioritize data work, as well as external influences.

The article highlights the challenges in synthesizing the available literature, with a high degree of fragmentation, including research from distinct intellectual traditions resulting in many disconnected constructs, measurements, and theories. Finally, the paper discusses challenges in the study of nonprofit data use and strives to provide guidance for future inquiry.

Robert L. Fischer is an Associate Professor at the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences of Case Western Reserve University, where he leads a range of evaluation research studies and teaches evaluation methods to graduate students in social work and nonprofit management. He is also Co-Director of The Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development. Since 2001, he has led the Center’s research on Invest in Children, a county-wide early childhood initiative that includes home visiting, children’s health, and childcare components. Dr. Fischer is also faculty director of the Master of Nonprofit Organizations (MNO) degree program.

By |2023-05-24T13:02:49-04:00May 24th, 2023|NACC Member Research|

Resilience and the Management of Nonprofit Organizations: A New Paradigm

Dr. Elizabeth Searing, University of Texas at Dallas
Dr. Elizabeth Searing

Dr. Elizabeth Searing
Assistant Professor of Public and Nonprofit Management
School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences
University of Texas at Dallas

Resilience and the Management of Nonprofit Organizations: A New Paradigm
Edward Elgar Publishing, 2022

‘This book provides valuable insight into how to integrate the concept of resilience into organizational culture and management practices. As we emerge from over two years of the pandemic, the need to lean into core strengths and develop greater expertise is invaluable.’
– Brian Schreiber, JCC of Greater Pittsburgh, US

Few books written for or about nonprofits explicitly target how to prepare for crises. Nonprofits are reliant on donors, regulators, government funders, and dedicated staff and volunteers; in crises, this reliance leaves nonprofits unprepared and vulnerable. This book, co-authored by Elizabeth Searing and NACC Founder Dennis R. Young, fills that gap by examining how nonprofits can prepare for and respond to both mundane and extraordinary threats: pandemics, economic recessions, terrorist attacks, and other potentially catastrophic events.

To manage these risks, Dennis Young and Elizabeth Searing develop multifaceted strategies involving balance sheets, cost and income structures, human resources, networks, technology, entrepreneurship, and information systems. Searing notes that, “in a way, this book captures what nonprofits do every day: make the most of difficult situations. But even when you’re awesome at what it is you do in the community, things can be overwhelming, so the book is designed to help you prepare for those storms ahead of time.”

In the book, managers are offered practical recommendations based on research to assess risk and develop resilience strategies appropriate to their organizations. Plus, the authors elaborate resilience as a new management paradigm for building healthier and more effective nonprofit organizations that includes the use of templates for executive briefings, dashboards, and stress tests.

The subject material and approach fit multiple audiences. Nonprofit managers and trustees, foundations, and government funders can acquire insights and tools on how to develop and manage resilient organizations. Researchers, teachers, and students will gain a greater understanding of how current research drives the resiliency paradigm and how to move research on nonprofit resilience forward.

Dr. Elizabeth A. M. Searing is an Assistant Professor of Public and Nonprofit Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. Dr. Searing’s primary research focus is the financial management of nonprofit and social enterprise organizations, but she also conducts work on comparative social economy more broadly. She is an Associate Editor and editorial board member of Nonprofit Management & Leadership, and an editorial advisory board member at VOLUNTAS and the Journal of Public Budgeting, Accounting and Financial Management (JPBAFM). Her articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, and Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.

Dr. Dennis R. Young is an Emeritus Professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University and an Emeritus Professor at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.

By |2023-05-24T15:55:40-04:00May 24th, 2023|NACC Member Research|

The Nonprofit Open Data Collective

Dr. Nathan Grasse, Carleton University
Dr. Nathan Grasse

Dr. Nathan Grasse
Associate Professor
School of Public Policy & Administration
Carleton University

The Nonprofit Open Data Collective

The Nonprofit Open Data Collective is an evolving collaboration between academics, think tanks, and industry experts to promote open data in the sector, with members from sector leaders, including Cinthia Schuman of the Aspen Institute, and academic institutions, including Jesse Lecy of Arizona State University.

Members such as the Aspen Institute and Independent Sector have engaged to improve the data environment, including 990 data and the availability of electronically filed records, as well as working with administrators in the Internal Revenue Service and Bureau of Labor Statistics. They have also worked with institutions such as the Johnson Center to gather evidence on the impact of open data and useful data practices (e.g., electronic tax filing).

Globally there are dozens of administrative or research databases to track third-sector organizations. This data is sometimes released in formats that are not always easy to use – ASCII text, Javascript object notation (JSON), and extensible markup language (XML) files. This can be a barrier to those hoping to learn about the sector.

Academic members of the collective created a GitHub organization to make data more accessible to scholars and researchers. The website includes scripts to download, clean, and process data, research-ready datasets, tools for analysis, and links to other resources. These might be helpful to NACC members who wish to integrate sector data into their courses or those looking to utilize data in their research, and the collective would welcome contributions from NACC scholars.

Partner Organizations

NODC Partner Organization logos

Nathan Grasse is an Associate Professor of nonprofit finance and financial management, governance and leadership, and strategic management at Carleton University. His research focuses on the governance of public-serving organizations, including associations between governance and financial management. This includes the study of revenue structures, the potential conditioning effects of organizational and environmental factors, and the implications of strategic choices on financial health and other organizational outcomes.

By |2023-05-25T10:17:54-04:00May 22nd, 2023|NACC Member Research|

The Fundraising Reader (1st Edition)

Dr. Beth Breeze, Centre for Philanthropy, University of Kent
Dr. Beth Breeze

Dr. Beth Breeze
Director, Centre for Philanthropy
University of Kent

The Fundraising Reader (1st Edition)
Routledge, 2023

The Fundraising Reader, edited by Beth Breeze, Donna Day Lafferty, and Pamala Wiepking, draws together essential literature establishing a one-stop body of knowledge that explains what fundraising is, and covers key concepts, principles, and debates. The book shines a light on the experience of being a fundraiser and answers an urgent need to engage with the complexities of a facet of the nonprofit sector that is often neglected or not properly understood.

This international compilation features extracts from key writing on fundraising, with a comprehensive contextualizing introduction by the editors. Uniquely, this Reader shares conflicting positions relating to age-old and current debates on fundraising: Is fundraising marketing? Should donors or the community be front and center in fundraising? How can fundraisers deal with ethical dilemmas such as ‘tainted’ donors and money? Best practice and future trends are also covered, including the impact of new technologies and responding to demands for greater diversity, inclusion, and equity in fundraising teams.

This Reader is for those who seek to further develop their own understanding of fundraising, and it provides an invaluable resource for academic courses and professional training. “The NACC audience is central to our reasons for creating this Reader,” noted Dr. Breeze. “It should make teaching fundraising much more straightforward.”

This flyer provides additional information and a 20% discount. Two free online lecture videos by Dr. Breeze provide further insight into the subject.

Beth Breeze is Director of the Centre for Philanthropy, which she co-founded in 2008. Beth began her career as a fundraiser for a youth homelessness charity and spent a decade working in a variety of fundraising, research, and charity management roles, including as deputy director at the Institute for Philanthropy. Motivated by the lack of substantive research underpinning practice, Beth completed a PhD on contemporary philanthropy at Kent in 2011 and has remained at the University ever since.

By |2023-05-25T10:21:03-04:00May 22nd, 2023|NACC Member Research|
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