Public Policy Forum Blog

Metro Milwaukee nonprofit organizations rate the region's philanthropic efforts

In each of the past 15 years, the Public Policy Forum has surveyed nonprofit leaders in southeast Wisconsin to gain insight into the financial health of their organizations and their success in generating support from philanthropic and government entities in Greater Milwaukee. This year’s 15th annual Report Card on Charitable Giving is based on the November 2011 survey responses of 95 nonprofit leaders and finds the responding organizations report greater fiscal stability and more optimism about the future than in the previous two years.

In fact, it appears the nonprofit sector may have seen the bottom of the recession’s impacts, with a greater number of nonprofit leaders reporting they are financially healthy – and fewer reporting chronic financial problems – than in 2009 or 2010. It is also clear, however, that nonprofit organizations have yet to bounce back to their pre-recession status, and that most continue to be challenged to meet increasing demands for their services within the context of their budget constraints.

Major Findings
• While about half of respondents feel the state of philanthropy in the metro Milwaukee area in 2011 did not change from the previous year, the percentage of those feeling it is getting worse decreased sharply from two years ago.

• The majority of respondents continue to feel the U.S. economic downturn has caused giving to be less generous than usual, yet the proportion of respondents feeling that way has declined in each of the past two years.

• A majority of respondents say the outlook for the long-term sustainability of their organization is high or very high. Very few have low expectations for long-term sustainability.

• Recession-driven demand for direct services continues to grow, but most respondents this year say they are at least somewhat confident they will be able to meet the demand. More respondents this year say they have been able to increase their staffing levels in response to increased demand and more say they feel donations are increasing relative to the increased demand for services than in the previous two years.

• Budget constraints continue to challenge nonprofit organizations, with many continuing to freeze salaries or take other steps to reduce expenses.

• More respondents in 2011 report overall revenue growth and growth in donations as compared to 2010.

Anneliese Dickman