Nonprofits in Boston: How Strong Are They?, by Gioia Perugini

The first month of 2016 is in the books. With relatively little snow here in Boston (yet) and the Patriots out of Super Bowl contention, our water cooler conversations have turned to sharing themes from the variety of meetings and briefings we’ve attended in the New Year. A consistent theme that’s turned up for me from this past month centers on the strength of the nonprofit sector. From arts to education and human services, how are organizations both large and small working to ensure they have stable operations for this year and decades to come?

A new report published by the Boston Foundation assesses the strength of greater Boston’s nonprofit cultural sector as compared to ten other cities view the report. It reviews the sector’s revenue sources (in Boston, generated more through the generosity of individuals than government, foundations or corporate donors) and what challenges that may present for both their ability to innovate as well as their long-term sustainability. It also notes that the size of the nonprofit cultural sector is large on a per-capita basis–second only to San Francisco, of the eleven cities studied. Despite its high concentration, the vast majority of those organizations have budget sizes of $500,000 or less. This size mirrors trends in Massachusetts among all sectors, with approximately 85% of registered nonprofits reporting budget sizes of $250,000 or less. This data will have great relevance for nonprofit cultural leaders, individual and institutional donors, and government.

Other meetings this month have surfaced the question of the leadership and talent pipeline for the nonprofit sector locally and nationally. With Millennials surpassing Baby Boomers in population and Generation X in the workforce in 2015, many are examining whether we are creating sufficient pipelines for 20- and 30-somethings to assume the leadership of the nonprofit sector in the next decade. Further still, are we exposing the much-anticipated Generation Z to careers in the nonprofit sector during their college experience, and ensuring that youth of all socioeconomic levels have access to robust early-career training? The newly formed College of Social Innovation presented its approach to a hands-on semester study to a packed house of social change nonprofits in January. They, among others, are working hard to think about the leadership pipeline in Boston, ensuring it is diverse, robust and well-trained for the 21st century needs of the sector.

Thanks to a collegial community of nonprofit, civic and philanthropic leaders, we are educating ourselves and our clients about the needs facing nonprofits and how donors can best respond to meet those needs.

This advisory is provided solely for information purposes and should not be construed as legal advice with respect to any particular situation. This advisory is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship. You should consult your legal counsel regarding your situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

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