What keeps Austin nonprofits up at night?

For months, the city’s chief service officer, Sly Majid, and his staff have met with almost 50 nonprofits from across Austin in hopes of identifying what his office can do to support and grow Austin philanthropy.

“These are the themes that consistently were voiced in those meetings,” says Majid, “and it’s interesting that no matter what need the nonprofits served or how large or small they were, they all seemed to be facing some of the same challenges.”

Here is a summary of the challenges almost every nonprofit identified, with quotes attributable to the report.

1. Too Many Nonprofits

Nonprofits reported that having about 6,000 nonprofits in Central Texas “increases competition for the limited amount of available funding and resources” and leads to duplication of services, confusion for clients, donors and volunteers.

 2. Funding

Many nonprofits feel grant funding is “not sustainable” and “biased to new and small nonprofits.” They also say that “Austin’s individual and corporate giving falls short of what is expected.”

 3. Poverty

The nonprofits are concerned about “Austin’s increasing poverty rate” and “the growing physical gap between rich and poor.” They specifically point out the “lack of affordable housing in central Austin”, which “pushes those living in poverty further into more suburban and rural areas with less access to services.” The report says, “Wealth disparity in the city is vast and a lack of awareness of, even apathy toward, the economic gap is common. These conditions show that systemic inequality and discrimination continue to create barriers to economic mobility and reinforce poverty.”

MY TAKE: I can’t help but editorialize here. And remember, GivingCity is a nonprofit, too. But if you substitute the word “business” for “nonprofit,” by which I mean, if you consider these the biggest challenges of a business rather than a nonprofit, does that put their challenges in a different light?

1. Too many businesses, too much competition for customers, market share, etc.

2. Not enough money. We don’t make enough to sustain our business and Austin customers aren’t buying.

3. The problem we’re trying to address is growing more complicated. The product we’re trying to make is becoming more difficult to make.

Maybe it’s not fair to think of nonprofit challenges this way….? Or maybe it’s helpful?




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2 Comments on What keeps Austin nonprofits up at night?

  1. That is a wonderful way to look at it. Maybe more non-profits should be thinking about consolidating efforts and energies.So many NPs start from a desire to honor some specific person or cause and a fear of waste in the larger non-profits such as United Way, but as a person who wants to have the best use for my philanthropic dollars, the current options are too vast.

  2. I suppose I view those challenges as potential opportunities, although I agree with Virginia that collaboration is of benefit everyone.

    In terms of opportunities, it can help to think in elemental terms: How do I differentiate from everyone else? What makes my product or service special? What stories can I tell that will resonate with my audience? What are alternative options for sharing my message?

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