Regional Nonprofit Effectiveness Study: The Health of the Nonprofit Sector in Western Pennsylvania

We know that effective nonprofit organizations increase the well-being of the communities they serve and that capacity-building increases the effectiveness of nonprofits. BUT. Did you know… nonprofits that serve communities of color are funded inequitably when compared to white or mixed communities?

PACE partnered with data scientist Pete York of BCT Partners to examine the link between the effectiveness of nonprofits and the health of the communities they serve in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Through the use of machine learning and big data from nonprofit IRS 990s, foundation and government funding, zip code level economic data, and population demographics, we seek to assess local and regional nonprofit effectiveness and the impact on communities.

This information has implications for our entire nonprofit ecosystem including philanthropic, corporate, and government funder; capacity builders; nonprofits; charitable groups; social entrepreneurs, and community members. PACE intends to use the study results to guide our development of future programs and services.

PACE would like to thank an Anonymous Donor and our project advisors for their support and assistance on this project: The Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management at Robert Morris University, The Forbes Funds, and the POISE Foundation.

Regional Indicators of Community and Nonprofit Wellbeing Interactive Map

Watch the Video Summary

Executive Summary * Full Presentation * Glossary

Analysis of Regional Capacity Building

For over 50 years, PACE has provided organizational capacity-building support to nonprofit organizations in the greater Pittsburgh region. Our mission is to advance a more equitable community by increasing the capacity of individuals, groups and organizations that challenge injustice. As the need for additional support to nonprofit organizations continues to grow, so too does the pool of those providing capacity-building support. This indicates a need to redouble our efforts to ensure greater precision in directing our support to those nonprofits and communities where PACE will have the greatest measurable impact. According to the Nonprofit Effectiveness Study, 66 percent of the nonprofits in the 10 county region do not receive adequate amounts of capacity building.

Who are the organizations providing capacity-building support to the community-based non-profits of Southwestern Pennsylvania? In addition to intermediaries or management support organizations like PACE, capacity-building assistance is provided by universities, libraries, for profit consulting firms and funders. What services do they provide, in what depth, to whom, at what cost, and how do their services align with the capacity-building needs identified in PACE’s study?

The focus of our efforts is to help ensure organizational sustainability by providing  capacity building to community based nonprofits in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Moreover, to determine, given the potential overlap of the services provided by intermediaries and other organizations (23 percent of regional nonprofits receive more capacity building than they may need), what niches represent strategic opportunities for PACE.

In 2022 PACE commissioned Common Cause Consulting to assess the Capacity Building programs and needs in the region and provide PACE with recommendations.

Key Preliminary Research Findings:

  • Research on capacity-building in the Pittsburgh region is dated.
  • Existing research could be more robust, especially outside of Allegheny County.
  • Nonprofits suffer from their own “long COVID.”

The recommendations based on the project’s findings emphasize PACE’s overall role as a launchpad for a more equitable region for Black-led and Black-serving nonprofits.

The key recommendations are:

  • Continue to provide multi-year capacity-building support for nonprofits as well as utilize the tools they created for diagnosing specific needs of nonprofits and locating Black-led and Black-serving organizations outside of Allegheny County.
  • Conduct a Southwestern Pennsylvania ecosystem assessment every 3-5 years It will be crucial to monitor how demographic changes have affected nonprofits throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania as PACE emphasizes Black-led and Black-serving organizations.
  • Leverage PACE’s reputation and positioning to develop relationships PACE’s expertise, cross-sector positioning, and knowledge of the nonprofit sector make them uniquely positioned to foster relationships and create space for convening across stakeholder groups.
  • Advocate to funders on behalf of Black-led and Black-serving nonprofits PACE can help ensure funders clearly state and prioritize grants designated for operating costs and shorter timelines. COMMON CAUSE CONSULTANTS

Analysis of Regional Capacity-Building Full report

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