What Did Nonprofits Do with Pandemic Relief Funds?

Photo by cottonbro studio on Pexels.com

Steve Mumford, University of New Orleans

The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating to nonprofits. One in eight nonprofit jobs were lost in the pandemic’s initial months. At the same time, many nonprofits were needed to play an essential role supporting community resilience, which demanded more staff and resources.

Governments worldwide stepped in to help. In the United States, the federal government passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in late March 2020, providing $2.2 trillion of disaster relief, the largest relief package in history at the time. It created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), guaranteeing forgivable stopgap loans to sustain small businesses and nonprofits. Organizations that employed between one and 500 paid staff members could borrow funds for wages and have them forgiven if they maintained employees and pay rates. PPP had two primary goals: stabilize revenues and maintain employee hours.

Although the program was designed with businesses in mind, many nonprofits seized the opportunity to obtain PPP loans. What ultimately came of these emergency relief funds, and to what extent did they support the sector’s short-term financial sustainability as intended? Using survey data collected from nonprofits in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the start of the pandemic and one year later, matched to public PPP data, my colleagues Nicole Hutton, Stephanie Riegel, and I attempted to find out in our new NVSQ article.

Continue reading “What Did Nonprofits Do with Pandemic Relief Funds?”

Classifying Nonprofits Based on Mission

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Robert W. Ressler, Brandeis University

What’s the issue?

A mission statement is like a window into the soul of an organization. For nonprofits, the need to communicate with many diverse stakeholders creates an incentive to craft a mission statement that is reflective of an organization’s purpose, values, and on-the-ground activities. That makes a nonprofit’s mission statement a uniquely reliable source of information regarding actual organizational characteristics, especially ones that are not elsewhere easily categorized in a single activity code on a tax form, such as organizational identity, target audience, or theory of change. In addition, nonprofits must provide a mission statement to the IRS. But until recently, the technology simply didn’t exist to easily access and process nonprofit mission statements (for example, high-speed computers running text processing software on digitized tax forms).

My recently published NVSQ article with Brad Fulton and Pamela Paxton, titled  Activity and Identity: Uncovering Multiple Institutional Logics in the Nonprofit Sector, takes advantage of technological developments to illustrate how mission statements can be used to categorize nonprofits on new, dynamic, dimensions. Specifically, we estimate how many religious organizations span the nonprofit sector in fields like education and health care. When we started the project five years ago, we chose a dictionary approach, or using a list of specific terms selected by content experts, to process mission statements. But recently, more complex and resource intensive classification methods have been developed using machine learning. So as our article has approached publication, I’ve had to spend a little time thinking about the relative benefits of a dictionary approach to a machine learning one. I’m sharing those takeaways here.  

Continue reading “Classifying Nonprofits Based on Mission”

How do social norms influence charity preferences?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Cassandra Chapman, The University of Queensland

Social norms are perceptions of what other people typically do. It is well established that perceived norms affect whether people give to charity at all as well as how much they donate when they do give. But do social norms also influence which causes people choose to support?

For my new study with Lucas Dixon, Ann Wallin, Tarli Young, Barbara Masser, and Winnifred Louis, just published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, we surveyed 1,735 people in 117 countries to ascertain three things:

  1. Do different social groups perceive different charitable causes as normative recipients of their group’s charitable donations?
  2. To what extent is there consensus within groups about normative charitable causes?
  3. Do normative causes align with the actual charity selections of group members?
Continue reading “How do social norms influence charity preferences?”

Tackling interlinked environmental crises in research and practice

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jale Tosun and Emiliano Levario Saad, Heidelberg University

The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres identified climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution as “three interlinked environmental crises”, which need to be addressed simultaneously. The political leaders of the world acknowledged this interlinkage at the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15), which took place in Montreal, Canada, in December 2022.

Academics and researchers were faster than politicians in realizing the interlinkages between environmental protection, including preserving biodiversity, and climate action. They have reflected on this in different literatures, including studies of environmental/climate policy integration.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 gave pertinent research activities a boost and produced numerous conceptual notes which elaborate on how climate action can have either a positive or a negative impact on measures adopted to protect the environment. Research has examined how climate or environmental policies should be designed to avoid negative interactions (when the achievement of an environmental goals could threaten climate goals), or even achieve positive interactions (when measures for achieving environmental goals reinforce climate goals). An example of a potential negative interaction between climate and environmental action is the installation of offshore windfarms which can have serious implications for marine life. An example of a positive interaction is the protection of forests, which offer a habitat to species as well as serve as natural carbon sinks.

Continue reading “Tackling interlinked environmental crises in research and practice”