Few New Yorkers are aware of and appreciate how much their lives are touched on a daily basis by the City’s nonprofit organizations. Each day, more than one in four New Yorkers benefits from nonprofit hospitals that provide health care, numerous educational efforts ranging from traditional schools to walking tours, art and history museums, and everyday activities like day care providers. And each day, one in three New Yorkers listens to nonprofit radio or watches nonprofit television.

There has been no comprehensive overview of the nonprofit sector in New York City since 1989. What were the significant changes since then? Were nonprofits still contributing so significantly to the economy and quality of life in New York City?

A number of new issues needed to be raised. How was the tight real estate market affecting nonprofits? How did nonprofits fare in the roller-coaster economy of the nineties? Was computer technology being incorporated into nonprofit organizations? How significant was competition from for-profit firms? And, most recently, what has been the impact of the recent recession and the World Trade Center attack?

Meetings with focus groups of nonprofit leaders helped to identify critical issues to be addressed in the initial study. Public data were collected and analyzed. Survey questionnaires were designed to address issues like service provision, financial concerns, technology, space, employees, and volunteers. Over 3,000 nonprofits responded to mail surveys and follow-up telephone contacts. The report, New York City’s Nonprofit Sector, was published in 2002.

The project has responded to a wide range of users, including: providing service users and government agencies with information about the extent and availability of nonprofit services; providing policy makers, researchers, and advocates with financial and other data about the contributions of local nonprofit organizations; aiding potential funders, donors, and volunteers with insight on organizational needs; and assisting nonprofit organizations with analysis of staffing, funding, space, Boards and volunteers, computer technology, and other high priority issues that could improve the scope and quality of service provision. This has resulted in a number of other reports/papers and a Service Atlas.
The first report, New York City’s Nonprofit Sector (2002), contains the results of the largest study ever of nonprofits in New York City. It includes an analysis of recent changes in the role of nonprofits in the city’s economy and service infrastructure. The report documents employment and expenditure growth in the nonprofit sector and how New York's nonprofits have been affected by changes in support from all levels of government and charitable giving. The study shows how the sector has grown relative to the public and private sectors and how it has responded to new service needs.

The findings are available in the published report, on a CD-ROM, and at our website (www.nycnonprofits.org). The material includes a citywide report and information by service sub-sector for boroughs and neighborhoods.

A Service Atlas highlights the distribution of nonprofit services throughout New York City. The online Atlas maps NYC nonprofit services by location throughout the five boroughs. The Service Atlas lists over 6,000 nonprofit organizations in New York City which provide direct services - everything from day care centers to museums. Online searchers can be conducted by address, zip code, neighborhood, or other geographic areas. The Atlas benefits people by helping them find needed services, facilitating nonprofit connections, enabling potential funders to locate services and identify potential needs, and helping potential employees identify relevant agencies.

A second report, Nonprofit Services in New York City’s Neighborhoods (2004), follows up on the earlier study and targets location issues for New York City’s highly varied nonprofit sector in the context of the city’s diverse commercial and residential neighborhoods. Three factors are emphasized in this report: service access, nonprofit responsiveness, and neighborhood coverage.

The analysis required development of methodological tools, including functional classifications of both nonprofit service activities and types of neighborhoods, as well as indicators of ‘goodness of fit’ of nonprofit services to neighborhood needs. Major findings can be accessed in the executive summary page of our website.

The third report, The Financial Squeeze for New York City’s Nonprofit Human Service Providers (2004), focuses the analysis on the financial vulnerability of nonprofits, especially human service providers, since 9/11. While the City’s unemployment and service-dependent population have increased, private and corporate donors have been less able to contribute at former levels. Nonprofits providing human services have also been likely to be seriously affected by proposed cutbacks in revenues from government-contracted programs. The findings suggest that human service agencies are still unsure if the anticipated cuts are temporary or if they represent a longer-run shift in political culture and policy direction. Major findings can be accessed in the executive summary page of our website.

The fourth report, to be published in early 2006 is Financial Health and Distress among New York City’s Nonprofits. It identifies the lifecycle of nonprofits over the period of 1992-2002. Births, deaths, and sustainability are highlighted. Signs of financial health and vulnerability in the sector as a whole and among organizations that differ by service sector, activity, size, longevity, and location within the city are also examined. The findings will be useful in identifying early warning signs of financial problems, especially among nonprofit providers who constitute much of the City’s service infrastructure.

Additional brief reports have been distributed as Discussion Papers.

The NYC Nonprofits Project is a project of Community Studies of New York, Inc. Co-directors of the project are Dr. John Seley, Professor, City University of New York and Dr. Julian Wolpert, Professor, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. The Project is housed at the CUNY Graduate Center. An advisory committee of experts in the various fields represented by the project oversees all phases of the work.

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