Nonprofit Listening Post Project (1999-2012)

The Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Listening Post Project (LPP) identified key trends and challenges facing the U.S. nonprofit sector and the innovative strategies nonprofits adopted in response. The goals of this initiative were to:

  • Improve the ability of nonprofit managers to understand and cope with the changes affecting their organizations;
  • Speed the diffusion of innovations in the nonprofit field, thereby improving the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations;
  • Better equip management consultants and technical assistance providers to serve their nonprofit clients;
  • Create more practice-relevant teaching materials in the nonprofit field;
  • Provide a more systematic basis for public policy toward the nonprofit sector and alerting policymakers to the consequences of their actions for the nation’s nonprofit organizations; and
  • Increase public and media awareness of the challenges confronting the nonprofit sector and of the sector’s efforts to respond.

To accomplish this, the project partnered with a Steering Committee of nonprofit umbrella organizations, including the Alliance for Children and Families; the Alliance for Nonprofit Management; the American Alliance of Museums; The Arc; Community Action Partnership; LeadingAge; the League of American Orchestras; Lutheran Services in America; the National Council of Nonprofits; and United Neighborhood Centers of America.
Over 1,100 nonprofit organizations across the country representing diverse fields of nonprofit action were then recruited to serve as “Listening Posts.” These Listening Post organizations worked in four major fields of nonprofit activity: family, children, and youth services; elderly housing and services; community and economic development; and arts and culture. In addition to representing diverse fields of nonprofit action, Listening Posts included organizations of all sizes—from small, neighborhood-based groups, to large multi-state ones—and from all regions of the country. There were two sets of Listening Post organizations. The first set was recruited by the project partners. The second set was a random sample of similar organizations drawn by the Center from a comprehensive list of 990 filers to ensure that Soundings captured the full range of nonprofit trends and developments.
These Listening Post organizations participated in regular surveys, or “Soundings,” through which they reported on the key trends and developments currently affecting them, and expressed their opinions on topics of importance to the sector. Soundings also explored promising ways organizations are tackling these challenges. Possible Sounding topics were identified by the project Steering Committee, Center research staff, and the Listening Post organizations themselves. The Steering Committee then selected a topic for each particular Sounding based on its consideration of which issues are especially pressing and important. The project then summarized the resulting insights in a series of Communiqués, highlighted innovative organizations as “Featured Listening Posts,” and organized webinars designed to dig deeper into the survey findings.
The Listening Post project Soundings examined a wide range of important topics for nonprofits, including:

Listening Post Project Publications

Please visit the Center’s publications database to browse Listening Post Communiques, news releases, and other LPP publications. Click here for blog posts related to the Listening Post Project.

Listening Post Project Contact

For questions about the Nonprofit Listening Post Project Project, please contact former Project Manager Stephanie Geller. Geller currently leads Community Wealth Builders, a nonprofit initiative working to foster more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable neighborhood economies by promoting community wealth building models and strategies across Baltimore City.