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Understanding Trends in Poverty in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area

May 31, 2012

In 2010, about one in eight residents (12.1 percent, or 280,000 people) in the Pittsburgh region had incomes below the poverty level, an increase of 8.5 percent since the Great Recession started in 2007. Although demographic factors such as the arrival of new immigrants and more single-parent households contributed to the growing number of people living at or near poverty, the economy was the driving force in changing poverty rates. What does this mean for our region and for the future of our nonprofit sector?

Making the Connection: How Provider Dialogue and Network Clusters Can Spur Successful Collaboration

November 28, 2007

In 2005, the Forbes Funds commissioned a report called Service Clustering: Building Cohesive Public Service Capacity that described collaboration as a way to achieve greater efficiency through shared back-office or non-mission critical functions without reducing consumer choice. The researchers argued that collaboration could best be induced by focusing on providers that are geographically close together and that provide an overlapping set of services. According to the report, "It is easier to share, communicate, and collaborate with your neighbor than with an organization separated by distance." Though this idea is compelling, it has become clear in the years since the 2005 report that the identification of geographic clusters is not sufficient to inspire a host of new collaborations. Formal collaboration, the kind suggested in the past report and the focus of this work, remains a relatively rare phenomenon. Convinced that collaboration continues to promise greater efficiency and effectiveness when successfully implemented, The Forbes Funds revisited the topic this year, hoping to gain further insight into the factors that make collaboration successful and to identify additional clusters of providers that could provide the greatest potential for collaboration.

Nonprofit Mergers: An Assessment of Nonprofits' Experiences with the Merger Process

November 28, 2007

An increasing number of nonprofit organizations are exploring mergers -- the process by which at least two nonprofit corporations join to form one legal entity. Yet, little is known about nonprofits' experiences with the merger process. What leads nonprofits to explore a merger and what outcomes do they expect to achieve as a result? Who within the organization is typically involved in facilitating the merger? How long do mergers take to complete, what do they cost and, above all, what are the results? Drawing on the experiences of 22 nonprofit organizations in Allegheny County that explored, attempted or completed a merger, combined with a comprehensive literature review, this report seeks to answer those questions and provide recommendations that nonprofits and funders can use to inform their conversations about the merger process.

Built to Last: Our Legacy and Our Future -- Nonprofits and the Regional Economy

October 1, 2006

In 2003, The Forbes Funds surveyed the population of nonprofits in Allegheny County.In 2006, The Forbes Funds again commissioned the Allegheny County Nonprofit Benchmark Survey, and, upon receiving responses, called upon researchers from Carnegie Mellon University not only to make sense of the data but also to contextualize the findings against what we already know about the county's nonprofit sector as well as what we know about the state of things generally. Findings from the Nonprofit Benchmark Survey demonstrate the resilience as well as the fraying of our region's nonprofit sector.

A Comparative Analysis of the Capacity-building Industries in Pittsburgh and Central Texas

October 1, 2006

Five years ago, The Forbes Funds provided support for a new research series exploring challenges and strategic opportunities in nonprofit management in the Pittsburgh region.The intention of this research was to determine what works in strengthening nonprofits' organizational capacity and management abilities, as well as what may be the barriers or service gaps in building nonprofit capacity. As part of this research series, in 2004,The Forbes Funds commissioned Judith L. Millesen, at Ohio University, and Angela L. Bies, at Texas A&M University, to conduct a comprehensive analysis of Pittsburgh's capacity-building "industry." This "Pittsburgh study" offered detailed findings about the degree to which Pittsburgh's "industry of consultants, firms, management support organizations, and academic centers offer accessible, quality services to the 1,600 nonprofit organizations in Allegheny County."1 With ongoing support from The Forbes Funds, Drs. Bies and Millesen also conducted continuing analyses during 2005, which explored the incentive to engage in capacity building (Millesen & Bies, 2005) and the role of 'learning' in building nonprofit performance (Bies & Millesen, 2005).During 2005-06, a replication study was conducted in and around Austin,Texas.2 A key purpose of the study was to help afford a comparative analysis of the nonprofit sectors in two metropolitan regions with differing environments, economies, and capacity-building industries. With support from The Forbes Funds, the Bremer Foundation, and the Minnesota Council on Nonprofits, a third replication study is planned for 2006-07 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.The Texas replication study shared the Pittsburgh study's focus on understanding the characteristics of effective capacity-building initiatives through an examination of a series of questions related to who (the capacity builders) is doing what (the kinds of support services provided) for whom (what types of nonprofits are engaging in capacity-building initiatives) and to what end (whether capacity-building initiatives produce desired organizational change).The core research purpose remained to describe and analyze several aspects of the capacity-building environment, including the quantity, accessibility, and quality of capacity building services, characteristics of effective capacity building, and challenges and barriers to implementing capacity-building interventions. Both the Austin study and the Pittsburgh study offered implications for practice and suggested directions for future research into capacity building's effectiveness and influence in the sector.

How is the Region Doing? Human Service Use and Service Availability in Allegheny County, PA

October 1, 2006

Allegheny County is home to approximately 1,600 financially-active nonprofit organizations, including 357 human service providers that deliver a range of health and social services.1 Past research has suggested that Pittsburgh's nonprofits, as a group, are facing important organizational and program challenges as they plan for the future. De Vita & Twombly's study of nonprofit human service organizations in the county (2003) found that, in 2000, nearly 40 percent of these providers had expenses that exceeded their revenues.In a paper discussing the future of nonprofits in the region, Paul C. Light (2005) listed additional challenges: difficulty responding to rapid environmental changes, challenges achieving gender and racial diversity in boards, and precarious financial situations.While these challenges on the service supply side are worrisome, less is known about the demand for human services in Allegheny County, and how it may be impacted. Using client and provider data from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), The Hill Group (2005) examined service usage for each DHS Program Office (e.g., Office of Behavioral Health, Agency on Aging, etc). Campos, Inc., in 2004, contrasted the opinions of Allegheny County residents and nonprofit executives about the most serious problems at the community level. Neither one of these studies, however, asked consumers directly about the utilization of services at the household level.To address this gap,The Forbes Funds commissioned the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning to conduct a study of the human service needs of households in Allegheny County. Specifically, OMG's research focused on service use of residents of distressed and non-distressed areas, and attempted to contrast service usage with the array of human services which are currently available.The study also looked at whether or not households were successfully accessing the services they needed, and explored barriers to service receipt and client satisfaction with services.

Facing the Futures: Building Robust Nonprofits in the Pittsburgh Region

October 1, 2005

The Pittsburgh region faces tough questions as it faces the futures ahead. Will it, for example, find a way to stop its young people from leaving or slip further into the profile of a "weak market" city, with all that means for the erosion of jobs and talent? Will it close the gaps between its citizens on education, health, earnings, and poverty, or will it continue to be listed as a city of disadvantage for African-Americans? And will it play an aggressive role in helping Pennsylvania rebuild its aging economy or eventually eclipse North Dakota and West Virginia as the state with the slowest growing economy in the nation?No one knows yet just how these futures will play out. It could be that the Pittsburgh area is on the cusp of a great revival as it continues to make the turn from an industrial-age economy to an "eds and meds" future. It could also be that the area has reached the maximum range of its geographic spread, thereby signaling an end to the hollowing-out of its inner city. It could even be that the area's young people are starting to see the vibrant opportunities embedded in urban renewal and a low-cost of living, not to mention an expanding arts community, access to some of the nation's greatest educational institutions, and the chance to revel in the return of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the yellow towel industry that goes with it.

The Cost of Meeting Compliance: A Case Study of Challenges,Time Investments, and Dollars Spent

October 1, 2005

Management, especially how it relates to staff time investments tracking outcomes and reporting results, is not clearly understood across the nonprofit sector (Gawande & Wheeler, 1999). To date, there is no systematic study that examines investments made by nonprofit staff to meet funder compliance. Recently, the Stanford Project on the Evolution of Nonprofits (SPEN) at Stanford University completed a two-year investigation of nonprofits in the Bay Area and found that many funders differ in their demands for meeting compliance, which created conflicting demands (Gammal, Simard, Hwang, & Powell, 2005). However, the study did not examine the amount of time nonprofit leaders spend on such activities or how much of the funding resources are used toward such activities. Thus, both nonprofits and funders alike have not been able to quantify, in dollars, how much is invested in meeting compliance. To address this gap, The Forbes Funds commissioned Sandraluz Lara-Cinisomo to conduct a research case study of one Pittsburgh-area nonprofit to determine how the organization makes staffing decisions and carries out compliance-related activities; how much time is invested in these tasks; and how this time translates into dollars spent.

Why Engage? Understanding the Incentive to Build Nonprofit Capacity

October 1, 2005

The literature regarding nonprofit capacity building is expanding as funders, infrastructure support organizations, researchers, and others interested in strengthening the sector work to develop a better understanding of how to build organizational capacity effectively. In the spirit of this inquiry, The Forbes Funds commissioned Judith Millesen, at the Voinovich Center for Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University, and Angela Bies, at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, to examine the incentives associated with engagement in capacity building. Specifically, the research team used organizational theory to frame an examination of the ways in which environmental characteristics, institutional attributes, and financial characteristics relate to the incentive to engage in capacity building.

Building the Faith: Strategies for Building the Capacity of Faith-Based Organizations and Congregations Serving Allegheny County, Pennsylvania

October 1, 2005

For as long as anyone can remember, congregations have played a vital role in nurturing the spirit of the community. Aside from being a source for spiritual grounding, congregations also provide social ministries to address the needs of the community. Over time, these social ministries have developed into more formal and professional faith-based programs and organizations, which often function independently from those offered by their founding congregations. Such national organizations as Catholic Charities, Young Men's Christian Association and the United Jewish Federation, and such local organizations as Holy Family Institute, Pittsburgh Project, the Jewish Community Center and East End Cooperative Ministries, have emerged from congregations as ways to respond to the social needs of the community. While faith-based organizations (FBOs) have played important roles in their communities for many years, the issue of public funding for their efforts has become the subject of extensive public debate relatively recently. The current national dialogue can be traced back to 1996 and the Clinton administration's support for changes to what has been called "charitable choice" legislation: making federal contracts more readily available to support the work of congregations and FBOs. Subsequently, in 2001, the Bush administration established the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as a way to further address the needs of FBOs. Despite the great variety of beliefs represented by FBOs, they share some important characteristics: a broad commitment to community; support for spiritual growth and social justice; and a willingness to serve in areas of great need. These characteristics were confirmed by a recent survey of incorporated 501(c)(3) faith-based organizations carried out by a team of researchers led by Dr. Kevin Kearns, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. For example, the team found that when compared to their secular counterparts, FBOs benefit from much higher levels of commitment from volunteers, and this commitment does not abate as the organizations grow larger and gain more professional staff. In recent years, government at all levels has come to rely on FBOs to deliver services to populations in need. Annually, FBOs in the United States provide more than $15 billion in social and human services, serving approximately 70 million persons. In some communities, government contracts with FBOs have increased more than 500% within the last two years. In 2002, the Hudson Institute released a study that examined government contracting with FBOs in fifteen states. Their report cited 726 examples of government contracting with FBOs, totaling almost $125 million. (Nine states were studied in the year 2000 and an additional six in 2002.)This study also found that government contracting with FBOs in eight of nine originally surveyed states increased substantially, from over $7.5 million in 2000 to over $88 million in 2002.

Service Clustering: Building Cohesive Public Service Capacity

October 1, 2005

The human services support system of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, incorporates a complex and concentrated network of services for its economically disadvantaged citizens.In 2004, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS) served 231,400 people by administering 2,190 contracted services through a network of 384 direct service providers, most being autonomous, nonprofit organizations.1 Local government relies heavily on nonprofit organizations to address the physical, mental, and emotional health of individual residents, which in turn improves the quality of life for families and communities.Allegheny County residents consequently enjoy a human service delivery system with great geographical access to a variety of service providers.A network of 384 direct service providers delivering services across five DHS program offices provides choice to individuals.This ample supply of service delivery options enables consumers to select direct service providers in close geographic proximity to their residence, as well as an opportunity to select a provider based upon its particular service delivery approach.That said, this abundance of supply options, while likely attractive to the consumer, entails a cost to government or the funder in its costs to administer contracts with each autonomous, direct service provider.The Forbes Funds commissioned The Hill Group, Inc., to conduct a study of the human service delivery system in Allegheny County to determine if there were opportunities to enhance the system's capacity. Specifically, this study investigates whether there is an opportunity to maintain choice in service delivery, a benefit of the Allegheny County human services system, while creating operating efficiencies and enhancing mission effectiveness.This study addresses the following questions:What is the supply and demand continuum of human services in Allegheny County?Is there evidence of equilibrium or disequilibria between human services provided and demand for human services?Are there high or low concentrations of service providers geographically clustered around clients or any natural market sheds of human services activities?Can geographical concentrations of providers and clients be leveraged for efficiency through various forms of collaboration without compromising choice or delivery of services?Would the geographic clustering of human service organizations lead to any costsavings to the public (government or funders) or to nonprofit organizations?

Nonprofit "Capacity-Building Orientation": The Role of Learning in Building Nonprofit Performance

October 1, 2005

Amidst increasing attention to nonprofit performance, interest in nonprofit capacity building activities has understandably intensified. A natural outgrowth of this interest is an expansion in the number and range of nonprofit capacity-building providers and approaches. In response to this growth,The Forbes Funds, in 2004, commissioned Judith Millesen, at the Voinovich Center for Public Affairs and Leadership at Ohio University, and Angela Bies, at the Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University, to examine the quality of Pittsburgh's capacity-building industry and to identify the characteristics of effective capacity-building initiatives.This study expands on that earlier research by investigating questions of why and how nonprofit organizations engage in capacity building, as well as the ways in which organizational, managerial, and financial characteristics relate to capacity building.The current literature on nonprofits provides useful theoretical insight to understanding externally driven mechanisms for improvement, and, by extension, insight into incentives for engagement in capacity building.What is less well explored are the internal mechanisms that drive and motivate boards, managers, and key staff to pursue capacity building as ongoing and integrated processes of organizational change and capacity improvement.Learning theory provides such insight.This study addresses the following research questions:What factors predict higher levels of engagement in capacity building by nonprofit organizations?What factors predict higher levels of organizational capacity?