Research project identifies needs of nonprofit sector

Heather Carpenter, left, with undergraduate fellows Alaina Clarke and Rachel Gregg.
Heather Carpenter, left, with undergraduate fellows Alaina Clarke and Rachel Gregg.
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A new study from Grand Valley State University’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, and the Johnson Center for Philanthropy reveals trends in the kind of professional development programming nonprofit organizations in Michigan need. 

The 2013 Nonprofit Needs Assessment is a profile of the most urgent professional development needs of Michigan nonprofits. While many industries are struggling in Michigan, the nonprofit sector is growing at a rate of 1.3 percent per year, and demand for nonprofit services is rising. That means nonprofit workers must work longer hours and take on additional responsibilities to meet increasing demand. 

Nonprofit and philanthropic employers are recognizing that in order to reduce employee burnout and turnover as well as maintain positive employee morale, they must provide professional development opportunities for their staff.

Previous needs assessments were conducted by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy in 1998 and 2007. The 2013 needs assessment is comprised of the responses from 138 different nonprofit and philanthropic organizations.

Key findings included: 

The majority of respondent organizations offer professional development to their staff and board: 73 percent of the surveyed nonprofits offer professional development training to their staff, and 51 percent offer professional development to their board.

The Johnson Center for Philanthropy is the second most frequently used professional development source. The first most frequently used professional development source is the Internet. 

Program evaluation and data-based decision making is a crucial training need for many respondents. However, organizations are not currently taking advantage of this type of training due to cost and time constraints.

Organizational type and location determines the most crucial training need, in some cases. Fifty-seven percent of respondent educational organizations and 60 percent of Muskegon County respondent organizations selected board of directors training as their most crucial training need.

The report identifies recommendations on future actions, and detailed analysis of the current needs of nonprofit organizations. 

Research and reporting was done by Heather Carpenter, an assistant professor in Grand Valley’s School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration. Carpenter is the current Dr. Russell G. Mawby Fellow for Philanthropic Studies, a position which is granted to one Grand Valley faculty member each year. Carpenter picked Rachel Gregg and Alaina Clarke as the undergraduate fellows.