Thin the Soup or Shorten the Line: Washington-Area Nonprofits Adapt to Uncertain Times

Human services nonprofit organizations are crucial partners to government and the private sector in developing and maintaining healthy communities and families.

They are able to leverage multiple funding streams to create a greater capacity to deliver services than any single funding source could achieve on its own. Because they often have strong relationships with the people and neighborhoods where they work, nonprofits are well positioned to meet community needs. However, in the current economic climate, Washington- area human services nonprofits are being squeezed by rising demand, escalating costs, and increasing administrative tasks, all accompanied by only sluggish revenue growth. An analysis using survey results, tax documents, interviews, and local government budget data finds that these organizations have coped with fiscal stress in a variety of ways—many of which could lead to significant erosion in the quality and quantity of services provided to the community. There are models, though, to bolster nonprofits which should be considered by regional philanthropic organizations and government alike. But overall, the public and private sectors need to work with the nonprofit sector to jointly develop solutions that will meet the needs of community residents without overly burdening the resources of any one sector.