PA Nonprofits May Want to Prepare for a Rough 2017-18 Budget Process

A few years ago, a study from the Forbes Funds, The Pittsburgh Foundation and the United Way of Allegheny County examined the impact of nonprofits (minus the health care systems and institutions of higher education) on Pittsburgh’s economy. It found that nonprofits, ranging from human service agencies to animal rescue organizations, provided over 75,000 jobs for local residents and spent $4.4 billion in the local economy – supporting over 31,000 jobs in other industries.  Preventive factors associated with such community–focused programming resulted in both lives and tax dollars saved. The state-wide data for nonprofits (including healthcare organizations) confirms the strength of the sector. In 2015, Pennsylvania nonprofits employed over 15% of the state workforce and generated $132 billion in annual revenue.

Unfortunately, even with this proven social and economic impact, there is concern that Pennsylvania nonprofits may once again face a serious threat to their operations during the upcoming budget process. First, the 2016-17 budget was never really balanced, and the expected revenue shortfalls are a reality (first quarter revenue collections were $200 million short).  Second, a pension reform bill supported by Governor Wolf failed to pass in the PA House earlier this week after opposition from unions, including the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, pushing that debt issue further down the road.  Third, our decaying infrastructure issues, already underfunded, are not going away in 2017-18 and the gas tax residents pay to fund repairs and improvements is being spent on state police. Also, 2018 is a gubernatorial election year in Pennsylvania. Could we see the sequel to the 2015 impasse?

You can stay up to date on nonprofit-focused policy and budget news at the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP) website’s weekly summary page. The Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO) is another resource for news out of the General Assembly.

A Snapshot of Arts Participation in the United States

Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 - 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Used via the Getty's Open Content Program.
Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 – 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 – 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Last month The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published research on the participation of Americans in the arts at both a national and state level. In 2015, approximately two-thirds of American adults attended at least one film or visual art or performance event within the last year. Films appeared to be the most popular choice (among both urban and rural residents) with 55 percent of adults reporting that they took in a movie, while 32 percent attended a live dance, music or drama performance, and 19 percent an art exhibit. Residents of urban areas attended live arts events (33 percent versus 21 percent) and movies (60 percent versus 46 percent) more than their rural counterparts.

The proportion of American adults reading literature (plays, poetry, novels – not work or school materials) declined from 47 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2015. Women (49.8 percent) reported reading literature more than men (35.9 percent). Generally, better educated respondents reported a higher level of literature consumption than those with less education.

Pennsylvania had a slightly lower rate of adults attending a live arts performance or movie than the national average (65.2 percent versus 66.2). Overall, Pennsylvania residents’ rates of arts participation via literature, art class enrollment, personal creation, or use of electronic media to experience the arts were not significantly greater or less than the U.S average. All state profiles and additional briefs on arts engagement are available at the NEA webpage.

Study: Online Revenue and Email Revenue Up for Nonprofit Organizations

The just released M+R Benchmarks Study 2016 (in collaboration with the Nonprofit Technology Network) contains lots of interesting data about the state of online fundraising and marketing among nonprofit organizations. Some highlights

  • Online revenue is up 19%.
  • Although email opens and click-throughs are down, email fundraising is up 25%, and among the 25 top performing  (dollars raised online)  study participants, over one-third of their online revenue is via email.
  • Nonprofits sent more emails around fundraising and advocacy in 2015 than the year prior, but the response rate decreased.
  • For every 1,000 emails sent, nonprofits raise about $44.
  • The average one-time gift ranged from $61 (Wildlife/Animal Welfare nonprofits) to $168 (Rights nonprofits).
  • Wildlife/Animal Welfare nonprofits have the highest rates of engagement on social media.
  • On average, just over 1% of website visitors make a donation.

The Benchmarks study may help you gauge your nonprofit’s development and marketing metrics against sector averages, in fact, on page 17 the authors advise how to best use the data comparatively. The study is available to download for free at www.mrbenchmarks.com .

Chronic Loneliness Can Make You Sick

At this time of year there is heightened awareness of the needs of others. We donate dollars, coats, toys and gifts, bags of food, or whatever else is needed to help make the holiday season a little less difficult for those facing economic hardship.  But social needs are also important, and when they are neglected due to self-imposed or situational isolation, there is an emotional and physical toll.  A holiday advertisement from the German store chain Edeka has been in the news this week for its powerful imagery of a lonely widower who is only able to bring his children and grandchildren together at Christmas by his (fake) death. Well played, Grandpa.

Sniffle inducing commercials aside, there are scientific links between loneliness and poor health. Studies released this year indicate that loneliness can make you ill and can be detrimental to longevity. Research out of Brigham Young University suggested that social isolation is as much of a risk factor to well-being as obesity, regardless of whether a person prefers solitude or is around others but feels alone. Even for younger people in the sample, little or weak social connection was a mortality risk.

Advancing their research on how loneliness results in changes at the molecular level, a research team including experts from the University of Chicago, UCLA and the California National Primate Research Center at the University of California-Davis, found that perceived social isolation leads to stress signaling, which affects genetic expression and cell production and lessens the body’s resistance to infection and illness.  The cells of lonely individuals contained “conserved transcriptional response to adversity” or CTRA (genes linked to inflammation in previous research). In this study however, loneliness was identified as a predictor of future genetic changes and a related decrease in the effectiveness of the immune system.  The team plans to continue their work on the links between loneliness, disease, and mortality to better understand the health risks and outcomes related to social isolation.

 

 

Citations:

Holt-Lunstad, T. B. Smith, M. Baker, T. Harris, D. Stephenson. Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2015; 10 (2): 227 DOI: 10.1177/1745691614568352

Steven W. Cole, John P. Capitanio, Katie Chun, Jesusa M. G. Arevalo, Jeffrey Ma, John T. Cacioppo. Myeloid differentiation architecture of leukocyte transcriptome dynamics in perceived social isolation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2015; 201514249 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1514249112