As Independent Sector’s Visiting Scholar, I have the unique opportunity to bridge the practitioner and academic spheres of the nonprofit sector. Recently, I observed the need for reliable nonprofit data during an Independent Sector convening of practitioners on questions about equity and disparities across nonprofits in the U.S. and how we can collectively work to close those gaps. Unfortunately, so much national data on nonprofits is a one-time snapshot that cannot be disaggregated to understand the experiences of different types of organizations. Practitioners and academics are left working from anecdotes or nonrepresentative data, so we have no clue how the disparities we hear about may apply to the sector as a whole.

The excitement around the release of the new Urban Institute report — Nonprofit Trends and Impacts 2021 — is not only because the report uses a nationally representative sample of nonprofit organizations, but also because it is part of a long-term partnership among several institutions to improve research on the nonprofit sector, share what is learned with the practice and research communities, and help policymakers and the public make informed decisions that affect nonprofits.

As a lead researcher on the project, here are a few of the findings and questions that caught my attention in the report:

Pandemic and Pre-Pandemic Giving: The majority of white-led nonprofits (60%) enjoyed increases in giving, but a relatively smaller share of nonprofits led by people of color (52%) saw such increases, while a larger share of POC-led nonprofits (14%), as compared to white-led (9%), saw decreases in giving during 2015-2019 — the pre-pandemic period covered in this report. POC-led and white-led organizations, however, had similar levels of increases (47% and 46%) and decreases (38% and 37%) of giving during 2020.

Gender and the Nonprofit Workforce: This report suggests that nonprofit work may still be “women’s work. The report shows that slightly less than half of board chairs and 62% of executive directors are female. And it has been widely known that the nonprofit sector is a female-dominated workforce.

Racial Disparities on Nonprofit Boards: One would also raise a question when looking at the data that 16% of nonprofits with programs that primarily serve people of color have all-white boards. The nonprofit sector has progressed to have a more diverse workforce and leadership body, but the finding in the report shows we have work to do when we still see that one out of six nonprofits, primarily serving people of color, have all-white boards.

Nuances in Giving Trends: Lastly, greater disparity in giving trends could have been expected between organizations led by people of color (POC) and white-led organizations.

Read the full article about nonprofit sector opportunities by Mirae Kim at Independent Sector.