What’s Happening in the Nation’s Most Charitable State?

Leading philanthropists and nonprofits share their views on the future of giving in Utah

The Giving State: A groundbreaking research report

Who’s giving? What do we care most about? How can we ensure our giving really moves the needle?

The Giving State is the first ever statewide data-driven report published on philanthropy and the social sector. Utah is poised to lead the nation in giving, not only in volume but in excellence as well. This report is a tool to help us reflect, foster ongoing dialogue, and spark ideas of tangible steps we can take toward excellence.

Now is the time to harness Utah’s innovative spirit to ensure a thriving future for our communities. After all, if we use our best thinking to address the issues we care about most, we’ll ensure our investments of time and money are successful in achieving our greatest hopes for the world.

 

 

Research Goals

  1. Provide a greater understanding of the number, size, motivations, and focus of funders and nonprofits in the state;
  2. Articulate priorities of funders’ and nonprofit leaders’ priorities—identifying where they are and are not aligned; and
  3. Propose ways funders and nonprofit leaders can work more effectively and efficiently to achieve these priorities.

Research Methodology

We conducted in-depth interviews with 49 nonprofit leaders, individual philanthropists, private and community foundation leaders, and corporate social responsibility officers throughout the state to understand their priorities, activities, and perspectives.

We fielded three studies to understand attitudes and practices around philanthropy in Utah:

  • 89 nonprofit executive directors, and staff members responded to a nonprofit survey
  • 76 family foundation officers, corporate giving officers, and individual philanthropists responded to a funder survey
  • 600 members of the general public participated in a panel study

We analyzed available data on all registered nonprofits in the state to understand their focus, geographic distribution, and size. We limited our data analysis to 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations (identified with a ‘subsection code 3’ by the IRS) with annual revenue of at least $25,000, with the exception of Intermountain Healthcare, and Western Governors University. Both of these 501(c)(3) organizations are significant outliers in terms of budget and scope; we excluded them to gain as accurate and representative a picture of Utah’s nonprofit sector as possible. In terms of funders, we looked at foundation, corporate, and key individual donors to 501(c)(3) organizations.

The Giving Mindset

As a sector, we want to make a difference, to do good. However, we currently define success by our activities—what we donate, how we serve, and the ways in which we provide. As a result, the majority of funders and nonprofits use thinking or behavior that undermines their ability to be high-performing, results-oriented givers and service providers. We have an enormous opportunity to shift our mindset to define success in terms of impact, or the change we can effect in our communities.

A Fragmented Landscape

Utah’s social sector is fragmented, driven by a pervasive do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and a dearth of information about what others are doing. The dynamic manifests in the rate of growth in number of nonprofit organizations in the state, and in how nonprofits and funders alike typically operate in an isolated, siloed fashion. While innovation and individual efforts are valuable in achieving impact, our go-it-alone, DIY mentality is not conducive to maximizing the impact we can have.

Approaches to Funding

At a high level, we see a mismatch between projected nonprofit budget needs and funder budget availability over the next three years, and questions around availability of federal funding further fuel uncertainty for nonprofits as they look ahead. In addition, among many funders there is a heavy and unhealthy emphasis on restricted giving, which limits nonprofits’ ability to invest in their organizations to deliver results. Finally, there is a strong tradition of relationship-driven decision-making amongst funders. We have an opportunity to rethink the funding paradigm in ways that will provide stability in coming years.

Effective Communication

Nonprofits are not shy, nor should they be, about clamoring for what they need, which typically involves more resources to pursue their mission. However, funders repeatedly report that they struggle to understand the basics of who the nonprofit serves, how the money or other resources will create an impact, and why a proposed approach is an appropriate solution to a community challenge. At the same time, nonprofit leaders note how difficult it often is to understand a funder’s priorities and how to effectively engage with the funder.

Understanding the Evidence

Measurement that aids in understanding progress toward outcomes is a stated priority for nonprofits and funders. However, there is a gap between stated priorities and actual practice, representing a valuable opportunity for funders and the organizations they support to more effectively track and use data. Barriers to effective use of data include limited staff time and expertise, inadequate tools, and lack of support from leadership.

Nailing the Fundamentals

As in the private and public sectors, capable leadership and management, effective use of data, standard operating procedures and specialized skills and experience are essential for success in the social sector. In Utah, as elsewhere, money and time devoted to implementing systems, gathering data, building capacity, or hiring expertise is too often frowned upon. With nonprofits often operating on a shoestring budget and a heavy reliance on passionate but inexperienced volunteers, investments in fundamental capabilities and systems are typically not priorities. We have an opportunity to solidify the foundation of Utah’s social sector to enable us to achieve the results we collectively seek.

Press Release

*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***

 

Cicero Social Impact and Claritas Publish The Giving State: A Report on Utah’s Philanthropic Landscape

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah; November 15th, 2017 —

Utah is the most “giving state” in the country, with residents donating more money and time than those from any other state. [The Giving State: A Report on Utah’s Philanthropic Landscape], released today, gets under the hood of giving in Utah to highlight who is giving, to what causes, and how and why the giving is happening. The report aims to paint a clear picture of philanthropic and nonprofit organization priorities; spark greater understanding and collaboration across Utah’s philanthropic and nonprofit sectors; and highlight opportunities for increasing the impact of philanthropic dollars in Utah’s communities.

Researched and written by Cicero Social Impact and Claritas, The Giving State is based on data from over 765 responses to tailored surveys for funders, nonprofit leaders, and the general public, and 49 in-depth interviews with nonprofit leaders, individual philanthropists, private and community foundation leaders, and corporate social responsibility officers. Utah’s social sector is significant, with charitable and public contributions supporting nearly 6,800 501(c)(3) organizations with a combined $9.3 billion in revenue—equivalent to 6.8 percent of Utah’s GDP.

Giving in the State

  • Utah ranks first in the country for charitable giving, with residents contributing 6.6% of their discretionary income — a full percentage point higher than Arkansas, the next most charitable state.
  • Utah also ranks first in the country in volunteerism – 78 percent of residents volunteering in ‘informal’ ways in their community and 43 percent volunteering in ‘formal’ ways – 8 percentage points higher than the number two state, Minnesota.
  • Fifty-eight percent of general public survey respondents’ donations go to religious organizations. Respondents reporting an affiliation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) give twice as much overall but give $330 per year less to nonprofit organizations that are not religious organizations compared to non-LDS respondents.

Survey Result Highlights

  • Funder survey respondents nearly unanimously cited their desire to make a difference in their communities and to give back.
  • Sixty-eight percent of funder survey respondents indicated that nonprofits should collaborate more with one another, noting that collaboration could reduce duplication and represent a more efficient use of funding dollars
  • Just 6 percent of Utah funder survey respondents indicated that it is acceptable for grantees to use their funding to track data. Fifty-eight percent of funder respondents noted that they want grantees to make more data-driven programmatic decisions.
  • Seventy-three percent of nonprofit survey respondents would like to see funders offer more flexible, unrestricted funding.
“We are facing incredibly complex needs at this moment in human history. It’s important that our contributions of funds, time, and other resources are refined to focus on driving real progress and outcomes around identified needs. Improved efficacy and collaboration will yield more joy and engagement from donors and beneficiaries as well.”
– Lindsey Kneuven, Head of Social Impact, Pluralsight

 

About Cicero Social Impact

Cicero Social Impact, a consulting firm based in Salt Lake City, is an advisor, resource, and thought partner for mission-driven funders and organizations who want to maximize their impact in the world. Cicero Social Impact’s services include impact strategy, monitoring and evaluation, performance management, professional development, collective impact, and fundraising analytics. Additional information is available at dev.cicerosocialimpact.org.

About Claritas

Claritas works with foundations, nonprofits, and other socially minded enterprises to do their best at doing good. Claritas brings clear, structured thinking to questions of organizational and programmatic strategy and planning, and measurement, learning and evaluation. Services also include primary and secondary research, analysis, and report writing. Additional information is available at www.claritasforgood.com.

 

Media Contact: Kathryn Quist
Cicero Group
Tel: (801) 456-6700

# # #

Insights and Opportunities: Can we do better?

The Giving State research team has highlighted six key areas of insight and opportunities in the report as an invitation to nonprofits and funders across the state to move together towards leading the nation in cutting-edge excellence.

How many more children could be ready for Kindergarten, or youth ready at graduation for college and career?

How could we more effectively address the homelessness crisis?

How much more cultured or healthy or safe or educated could Utah’s communities be?

What if nonprofits and funders better understood what each other needs and developed win-win solutions together?

In short, what is the true potential for Utah’s ‘elevated life’?

The Giving Mindset


The Giving Mindset 

Insight

As a sector, we want to make a difference, to do good. However, we currently define success by our activities—what we donate, how we serve, and the ways in which we provide. As a result, the majority of funders and nonprofits use thinking or behavior that undermines their ability to be high-performing, results-oriented givers and service providers. We have an enormous opportunity to shift our mindset to define success in terms of impact, or the change we can effect in our communities.

“Too often we are content with an effort that is ultimately a failure, but because of a warm and fuzzy anecdote or one success story we think it is effective.”
– Mayor Ben McAdams, Salt Lake County

Opportunity

Don’t assume that doing good inevitably makes things better. Instead, focus on and invest in the people you are serving and the outcomes, or results, you want to see. Only declare success when you see those outcomes. Embrace the reality that in the social sector, excellence is self-imposed.

 

A Fragmented Landscape

A Fragmented Landscape

Insight

Utah’s social sector is fragmented, driven by a pervasive do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and a dearth of information about what others are doing. The dynamic manifests in the rate of growth in number of nonprofit organizations in the state, and in how nonprofits and funders alike typically operate in an isolated, siloed fashion. While innovation and individual efforts are valuable in achieving impact, our go-it-alone, DIY mentality is not conducive to maximizing the impact we can have.

“If [grantees] came together they could do better work and our foundation dollars could go farther.”
– Jay Francis, Executive Vice President, Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation

Opportunity 

Survey the landscape and learn from others; don’t reinvent the wheel. Work together more often, more deliberately, and more effectively to achieve results.

  • Funders: Communicate with peers about funded work and observed results. Consider co-investing with peers. Invite group or partner funding applications. Encourage nonprofit collaboration by funding costs associated with collaboration.
  • Nonprofits: Work with peers to more effectively meet common aims. Encourage funders to fund nonprofit partnerships. Ask private sector leaders for their insights.
Approaches to Funding

Approaches to Funding

Insight

 At a high level, we see a mismatch between projected nonprofit budget needs and funder budget availability over the next three years, and questions around availability of federal funding further fuel uncertainty for nonprofits as they look ahead. In addition, there is a heavy and unhealthy emphasis on restricted giving, which limits nonprofits’ ability to invest in the good overhead they need to deliver results. Finally, there is a strong tradition of relationship-driven decision-making amongst funders. We have an opportunity to rethink the funding paradigm in ways that will provide stability in coming years.

“Every organization lives or dies by its people, and attracting quality people to do the important work takes money. I am 100% in support of allowing nonprofits to use my donations for any overhead or programming costs as they see fit. In my experience as a board member of a nonprofit, I have gained an appreciation of how much good ‘unrestricted’ funds can do.”
– Funder Survey Respondent

Opportunity

 Be clear about the resources required to achieve great results and be willing to pay, and ask, for what it takes to achieve them. Ensure your funding approach is strategic, forward-thinking, and evidence-driven.

  • Funders: Set clear strategy, with a crisp articulation of guardrails—what you will and will not fund. Establish (and communicate) processes and criteria that indicate how requests will be considered and how each grant will be reviewed. None of this needs to be or should be onerous, for either the funder or the nonprofit. Simple steps such as establishing regular review meetings or standardizing grant request forms help avoid in-the-moment responses, combine your heart’s instincts with your head’s review of the data, and increase the likelihood of achieving your ultimate goals. When providing unrestricted funding, ensure that you are working with partners who deliver validated outcomes and have accountability measures in place.
  • Nonprofits: While recognizing that relationships will continue to matter greatly, set yourself apart by having a clear funding strategy that aligns with your strategy for impact and by prioritizing sources of funding that will fuel that growth. Additionally, make it easy for results-oriented funders to partner with you by proactively providing evidence to show you are truly making a difference. Then invite funders to deepen, strengthen, and scale that impact with you.
Effective Communication

Effective Communication

Insight

 Nonprofits are not shy, nor should they be, about clamoring for what they need, which typically involves more resources to pursue their mission. However, funders repeatedly report that they struggle to understand the basics of who the nonprofit serves, the money or other resources will create an impact, and why a proposed approach is an appropriate solution to a community challenge. At the same time, nonprofit leaders note how difficult it often is to understand a funder’s priorities and how to effectively engage with the funder.

“It can be just as challenging to give money as it is to ask for it. Nonprofits need to communicate alignment and build relationships with funders; funders also need to be reaching out strategically to nonprofits and attempt to attend the same events, do site visits and other such things to improve communication.”
– Debra Hoyt, Director of Community Relations, Dominion Energy

 

Opportunity

First clarify your mission, strategic priorities, and the value of your work. Then build your capacity to explain yourself in concise, compelling ways to the appropriate audiences—funders, nonprofits, beneficiaries, and the general public.

  • Funders: Strive for transparency and timeliness when communicating with grantees. Transparency includes clear objectives, guidelines, and deadlines that are easily accessible and consistent, as well as a crisp articulation of strategic aims and desired outcomes.
  • Nonprofits: Clearly outline how requested funding will be used, how it complements the funder’s portfolio, and how the funding benefits the community. Research and respect funders’ parameters and processes.
Understanding the Evidence

Understanding the Evidence

Insight

 Measurement that aids in understanding progress toward outcomes is a stated priority for nonprofits and funders. However, there is a gap between stated priorities and actual practice, representing a valuable opportunity for funders and the organizations they support to more effectively track and use data. Barriers to effective use of data include limited staff time and expertise, inadequate tools, and lack of support from leadership.

“It seems everyone has a different definition of impact. Some think anything measurable is impact; others don’t think real impact can be measured at all. But while it is surely challenging to estimate a program’s impact on intangible life outcomes, it is incumbent upon each organization measure impact in a manner as agnostic and rigorous as possible.”
– Brittany Erikson, Program Officer, Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation

 

Opportunity

 Passion and effort are not enough. Capture and draw on actionable data to set and adjust strategy, evaluate progress, and drive true impact. Devote sufficient resources to appropriate measurement and evaluation.

  • Funders: Judge yourselves on your impact, not your funding or other activities. Embed data-driven decision-making into your own practices. Start by seeking to learn continuously about the issues you are interested in and proven solutions to those issues. Incorporate outcomes and impact (not just outputs) into your grantmaking or investment decisions. Just as importantly, make it a priority to fund grantees’ (and the sector’s) measurement capabilities, including expertise, tools and systems, and research. Find ways to work with other funders to coordinate investments in and expectations regarding data and evidence.
  • Nonprofits: Don’t wait for others to make measurement a priority or a possibility for you. Decide to devote resources and expertise to identifying and tracking impact. Request support from funders for measurement and evaluation. Commit to continuously operating in a data-driven way when it comes to decisions about which populations to serve, what solutions to provide, and where and how to scale.
Nailing the Fundamentals

Nonprofits’ Top Recommendations for Funders

Nailing the Fundamentals 

Insight

 As in the private and public sectors, capable leadership and management, effective use of data, standard operating procedures and specialized skills and experience are essential for success in the social sector. In Utah, as elsewhere, money and time devoted to implementing systems, gathering data, building capacity or hiring expertise is too often frowned upon. With nonprofits often operating on a shoestring budget and a heavy reliance on passionate but inexperienced volunteers, investments in fundamental capabilities and systems are typically not priorities. We have an opportunity to solidify the foundation of Utah’s social sector to enable us to achieve the results we collectively seek.

“We all need to invest in best practices to get to the next level as a sector.” 
– Alex Eaton, CEO, Community Foundation of Utah

 

Opportunity

 Avoid building a house of cards. Be deliberate about – and willing to invest in – building the expertise, systems, tools, and processes required for lasting, scalable results.

  • Funders: Apply the strategy, leadership, and investment acumen you have gained elsewhere to philanthropy. Encourage your peers and enable your grantees to do the same. Seek opportunities to collaborate with other funders to elevate both your own and the entire sector’s ability to deliver efficient results.
  • Nonprofits: Seek out and apply best practices in leadership, management, and client service from other disciplines (with appropriate translation for the social sector). Ask private sector leaders for advice where applicable. Prioritize investments in staff, measurement capabilities, and board effectiveness to unleash impact.
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  • We are facing incredibly complex needs at this moment in human history. It’s important that our contributions of funds, time and resources are refined to focus on driving real progress and outcomes around identified needs. Improved efficacy and collaboration will yield more joy and engagement from donors and beneficiaries as well.

    Lindsey Kneuven

    Head of Social Impact, Pluralsight

    When nonprofits, philanthropists, communities and strategy align, significant impact is the result. The Giving Report’s data and recommendations will go a long way toward creating a powerful framework for dialogue and action. It will support smart decision-making and help to create measurable, sustainable results. It is a critical resource for Utah’s social sector.

    Phyllis Hockett

    Principal, Pathway Associates

    The Giving State is the most helpful and thoughtfully researched analysis of philanthropy in Utah that I have ever come across. The data not only helped to validate what I experience every day, but also helped me to better understand funders’ expectations and priorities. The evidence-based recommendations for non-profit organizations and funders will help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the philanthropy in our state. I am inspired by the positive change a report like this can ignite. On behalf of social impact professionals in Utah, I am grateful for the rigor and objective approach of their work.

    Chris Conard

    Executive Director, Playworks Utah

    We are seeing a trend of funders moving from traditional checkbook philanthropy to impact and catalytic philanthropic investments.  In order to keep pace with the changing lens of funding ideology, more robust analyses like the Giving State report are critical for the future of Utah’s social sector.

    Alex Eaton

    CEO, Community Foundation of Utah


    Funding Partners

    Collaborating Partners

    For further reading take a deep dive into:

    1. Five Steps to Excellent Program Design
    2. One Acre Fund: Improving M&E to Improve Impact
    3. Working Backwards: Making Change that Lasts

     

    For more information or to request a presentation on The Giving State report, please contact:

    Anna Smyth