Survey Methodology - Nonprofit Finance Fund

2015 State of the Sector Survey
Methodology Statement
Subject of the Survey
Nonprofit Finance Fund’s seventh annual ‘State of the Nonprofit Sector’ survey asked nonprofit professionals a
series of programmatic, operational, and financial management questions which examined their experiences in
2014 and their expectations for 2015.
Our core lines of research inquiry:
What is the current state of service demand?
Are nonprofits financially and programmatically equipped to manage the demand for services?
How are organizations measuring their impact?
What are the current challenges for organizations that receive foundation and government funding?
Are nonprofits accessing the capital they need?
What programmatic and organizational actions are nonprofits taking and planning to take in response to their
Question topics included:
Key organizational demographics (e.g., sub-sector, state, operating budget)
The state of finances at the end of fiscal year (FY) 2014 and financial expectations for FY 2015
The state of various revenue streams in FY 2014 and expectations for FY 2015
What financial and programmatic actions they took in FY 2014, and plan to take in FY 2015
Whether they collect output and outcome data
Debt utilization
Characteristics and needs of the communities they serve
Sector-specific questions for organizations identifying as Arts, Culture, and Humanities, including
audience/visitor development strategies and responses to competition in the marketplace
How the Survey Was Conducted
Data was collected from mid-January to mid/late February. The survey was conducted directly within Fluid
Surveys, an online survey software platform. Data were aggregated online by Fluid Surveys. Respondents
were anonymous unless they explicitly chose to identify themselves.
Time Frame
The 2015 Survey opened on January 14th and closed February 20th. Within that time period, 5,451
organizations submitted responses. The Survey follows up on NFF’s 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009
Surveys, which were conducted within the same time period, from mid-January to mid-February of the six
previous years.
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Target Population and Method of Outreach
As this is a sector-wide survey, NFF has minimal criteria for the target population. NFF targets all active U.S.
501(c) 3 organizations and has identified senior leadership as the ideal respondents within an organization.
Survey promotion relies heavily on collaboration with partner organizations which includes other nonprofits,
foundations, government agencies, and the private sector. Outreach was conducted through the following
Mass email promotion to:
 NFF’s email lists of past and current clients
 Prior survey respondents who provided voluntary contact information, and those who signed up to receive
the survey via NFF’s website
 The Bank of America Charitable Foundation’s current and recent grantee list
 Network of state nonprofit associations under the auspices of the National Council of Nonprofits
 Other smaller lists provided by partners and peers, or sent directly by them.
Assorted blogs
NFF’s website
Multiple reminder emails were sent post-launch. Avenues of outreach had varying degrees of impact and
yielded different response rates.
Survey Questions
The Survey contained a maximum of 53 items, including demographic information on sub-sector, budget size,
and state. (See full survey results for precise wording).
Question Types
Multiple Choice
 In which organizations could only select one answer
 In which multiple answers could be selected
Interval scale questions
 In which organizations identified whether something increased significantly, increased slightly, stayed the
same, or decreased.
 In which organizations identified increase/decrease by a defined number or percentage
 In which organizations indicated whether they were positively impacted, negatively impacted, or didn’t know
how they were impacted regarding current events/conditions.
 In which organizations indicated whether they strongly disagree, somewhat disagree, somewhat agree, or
strongly agree with a statement
Open-ended questions
 In which organizations wrote in anecdotal information, stories, situations, or additional information when
Survey Results
Survey data is available in aggregate as a national dataset and in various sub-sector slices. The majority of
questions were optional; therefore, percentages are based on the number of responses received for each
specific question, with the exception of multiple choice questions, which were calculated based on the total
percentage of respondents who received the question.
To learn more about the survey or view full results, visit us online at
While 6,270 nonprofits ultimately responded in some capacity to the survey, 819 were removed due to
incomplete survey responses. NFF annually establishes a minimum threshold of answers for a survey
response to be considered complete if the respondent did not make it to the final page and submit their
responses. For the 2015 survey, the minimum threshold included a complete core organizational profile (state,
zip code, organization type, and FY 2014 operating budget) and responses to three additional priority
questions. For additional information on our internal data cleaning criteria and methodology please email us at
[email protected]
Limitations to the Data & Analysis
The results of this survey reflect the responses of nonprofits that both heard about the survey and elected to
respond. This therefore creates a probable voluntary response bias1 from nonprofits that opted to participate.
Thus survey results are not to be construed as a random sample by scientific standards. As a result, the data
from this survey may not accurately represent the state of the nonprofit sector as a whole.
As is the case with all self-reported data there remains an inherent risk of inconsistent and inaccurate data
reporting. Researchers attempted to control for inaccuracy among survey responses by removing numerical
outliers; however, the validity of all self-reported responses cannot be guaranteed. The results of this survey
are not weighted for statistical significance and, therefore, may over- or understate differences between
demographic or other respondent groups.
Finally, this dataset should be treated as snapshot data, capturing a specific moment in time, and is not to be
considered longitudinal.
NFF thanks the Bank of America Charitable Foundation for generously supporting the Survey since 2010
Voluntary response bias can occur when responses to a survey are entirely voluntary. Frequently those who volunteer to
respond have stronger opinions on a given subject matter than the general population.