Research Update: Highlights from Recent Reports in the Field

SECF’s online Research Library is regularly updated with the latest reports relevant to Southern philanthropy. SECF members can browse over 300 research reports, websites, case studies, and other resources that we’ve cultivated to help funders stay abreast of trends in the field and learn about emerging best practices in philanthropy. 

Below are some of the key findings and highlights of the newest additions to the Research Library. If you would like to suggest a resource or have other feedback, contact Stephen Sherman, SECF’s Director of Research and Data, at or (404) 524-0911.

Funder Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Center for Effective Philanthropy (2020)

CEP conducted a survey of nonprofit leaders in May 2020 to understand how nonprofits and the communities they serve have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, how funders have responded to the crisis, and what nonprofits will need most from funders going forward. Responses to the survey show that while the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the sector as a whole, the negative effects have been especially severe for nonprofits that provide direct services and for those that serve historically disadvantaged communities. In terms of financial impact, nonprofits that rely on foundation funding have experienced more stable funding than those that rely more on earned revenue or gifts from individual donors. Nonprofit respondents said that funders can be most helpful in the future by providing greater support, specifically unrestricted funds, and by being transparent about how the pandemic may impact future support. 

Multidimensional Index of Deep Disadvantage
University of Michigan, Princeton University (2020)

To understand disadvantage across the U.S., a team of researchers from the University of Michigan and Princeton University developed the Index of Deep Disadvantage (IDD) using health indicators (life expectancy, low infant birth weight), poverty metrics (rates of poverty and deep poverty), and social mobility data (Opportunity Insights Mobility Metrics). By bringing to light conditions in the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, the index not only uncovers what factors drive disparities, but it can help pinpoint where policymakers, state and local leaders, residents and philanthropy can take action to improve health, well-being, and opportunity for all.  An interactive map charts data from the IDD for all counties and for the 500 largest cities in the United States. The map shows that the Southeast region contains many of the most vulnerable cities and counties in the nation.

Allen Smart, founder of PhilanthropywoRx, wrote about this study’s findings, and its implications for Southern funders, in the latest issue of SECF’s Inspiration magazine.

Closing the K-12 Digital Divide in the Age of Distance Learning
Boston Consulting Group, Common Sense, Walton Family Foundation (2020)

This report, developed by Boston Consulting Group in partnership with Common Sense, examined the state of the digital divide among America's elementary school children, an issue brought to the forefront by the sudden shift to virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that 15-16 million K-12 public school students, or 30 percent of all public K-12 students, live in households either without an internet connection or device adequate for distance learning at home. While the digital divide is an issue across all 50 states, the South showed particularly high rates of disconnectivity relative to other regions. The study found that close to half of students in Mississippi are without adequate internet access, as are more than 40 percent of students in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama. The authors estimate that the initial cost to provide necessary devices and connectivity for students who need it is between $6 billion-$11 billion.

The 2020 Nonprofit Employment Report
Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies (2020)

Part of an ongoing series that examines employment and wages in nonprofit establishments in the United States, this 2020 report also provides a critical baseline measure of nonprofit employment prior to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest figures show that nonprofits employed the third largest workforce of any U.S. industry, behind only retail trade and accommodation and food service, with 12.5 million paid workers. Nonprofits are also a major generator of income and tax revenue, having paid over $670 billion in wages nationwide in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available. The report also takes a preliminary look at the potenial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides estimates of the impact on nonprofit employment in the years ahead.

Racial Equity and Philanthropy: Disparities in Funding for Leaders of Color Leave Impact on the Table
Echoing Green, The Bridgespan Group (2020)

This report, a collaboration of Bridgespan and Echoing Green, examines the depth of racial inequities in philanthropic funding. The authors call out two primary factors holding back philanthropy’s efforts to help advance social change, both of which are rooted in race: understanding the role of race in the problems philanthropists are trying to solve; and the significance of race in how philanthropists identify movement leaders and potential grantees. The authors argue that in order for philanthropy to truly have an impact, foundations must move from a color blind approach to one that acknowledges and addresses systemic racism. Racial inequity is built into many aspects of philanthropic work, and the authors encourage funders to direct more support to leaders of color, who can often bring a better understanding of local communities and challenges to their work.

Stephen Sherman is SECF's director of research and data.



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