The Center’s 11 Intriguing Discoveries of 2011

By on December 15, 2011

To mark the end of 2011, CCSS staff have gathered eleven of the most interesting and illuminating findings and ideas generated by our work during the year. While you’re here, please be sure to explore our brand new website, including a searchable publications database, and expanded sections for each of our research projects. We invite you to sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to keep up to date on the ideas to come in 2012!
With no further ado, we present the Center’s 11 Intriguing Discoveries of 2011!

NONPROFITS—AN ECONOMIC POWERHOUSE? Ask people to list the top three industries in our country, and few, if any, would include the nonprofit sector. However, with nearly 10.7 million paid workers, the U.S. nonprofit workforce is the third largest among U.S. industries, behind only retail trade and manufacturing, and also is proving to be relatively recession-resistant.

LOSING MARKET SHARE. Despite their recent growth, nonprofits have continued to lose market share to for-profit firms in many of their core fields of activity. Uneven access to investment capital could be one of the major culprits.

“VOLUNTEERLAND” IS BIGGER THAN INDIA? If all the nearly 1 billion people in the world who volunteer their time each year were to gather in the same place at the same time, they would form the second most populous country in the world, behind only China.

PHILANTHROPY’S BIG BANG. A massive explosion of new actors and tools has appeared on the frontiers of philanthropy. But too few people are aware of their existence, let alone their potentials. Our New Frontiers of Philanthropy Project is working to analyze and publicize these developments.

PAYING FOR SUCCESS. Despite being extremely new to the scene—too new, in fact, for much evidence of effectiveness—Social Impact Bonds/Pay for Success programs are exploding as an exciting new tool of cross-sector social intervention with the potential to significantly leverage private sector resources into social and environmental action.

WHAT WOULD GOOGLE DO? Google’s success in product design, innovation, and refinements can be largely attributed to how they listen to feedback from their end users. As the social investment movement picks up speed, the field would do well to follow Google’s lead and more meaningfully seek and value the voice of the actual beneficiaries of social investment.

MEASURING VOLUNTEERING JUST GOT EASIER. The world’s volunteers have long been invisible in official statistics. But the International Labour Organization’s new Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work now provides a way to give volunteer work the visibility and credibility it deserves. The European Council, European Commission, UN Volunteers, and European Economic and Social Committee have all encouraged its use.

CATCHING THE PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT BUG. Nonprofits seem to have bought in to the performance measurement mantra, though they report frustration in securing the resources to respond adequately.

A TAX FREE SECTOR? In a desperate search for new revenues, many local and state governments are imposing new taxes and fees on nonprofits. Given the perilous state of nonprofit finances, these taxes/fees could backfire, affecting the viability of critical nonprofit services.

PRIVATIZATION WE CAN BELIEVE IN? In a surprising discovery, privatization of governmental or quasi-governmental enterprises or assets turns out to be a promising avenue for resourcing community-based foundations in developing regions around the world.

THE NONPROFIT VALUE PROPOSITION. What sets nonprofits apart from other institutions in American society and justifies the special tax and other privileges they enjoy? Results from a Listening Post Project Sounding on this question will be available in early 2012. Sign up for our mailing list or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to get the results.