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Commentary: How Organized is Philly’s Nonprofit Sector?

September 30, 2014 Category: PurposeUncategorized

In Philadelphia County, there are 7,728 Federally Registered Nonprofit Organizations, who earned $27,270,938,218 in revenue and hold $56,727,871,600 in assets1.

Leading this vast sector are board members: The average board size is 16.2 voting members, according to the 2012 BoardSource Nonprofit Governance Index, which means there are as many as 125,919 board members running our nonprofit sector. Assuming some people are on multiple boards, over 100,000 people are responsible for managing over $57 billion in assets.

Who are these leaders? With annual revenues over $27 billion, how do they communicate and coordinate with each other? How many live, work and play in Philadelphia, or send their children to Philadelphia schools? How many of them or their families use nonprofit services?

For context, with $27 billion you could give each of the 390,000 Philadelphians in poverty2  $69,000 a year. Is this $27 billion being spent wisely?

Another obvious question: how can we get these 100,000 plus leaders talking to each other?

So many of these board members lead organizations with similar missions and are helping many of the same people. What natural barriers have prevented the organic creation of some sort of cross-organizational board level communication platform?

If we need another nonprofit to solve this, I propose a nonprofit communications project to, at a minimum, produce a newsletter for the board members of Philadelphia-centric nonprofit organizations. Eventually, the project could host events and other networking opportunities.

By providing the over 100,000 leaders with a basics communication platform, we can increase mission productivity by educating board members to take true responsibility for the organizations they oversee. In time, this could help make the whole sector run better and better support Philadelphia.

If you have any ideas about how this could be made possible, reach me on Twitter at @tivonidevor.

Also, you can read my column “Steal This Nonprofit,” a call for nonprofits to openly share their ideas so that others can put them to good use, for further perspective on how the nonprofit sector needs to work together.

From our Partners


tivoni_yards-150x150Tivoni Devor, MBA, has spent his entire career in the nonprofit sector. While working for diverse institutions in many roles, Tivoni has often found himself developing earned revenue models and designing strategic partnerships. Tivoni currently works as the Manager of Partnerships and Outreach at the Urban Affairs Coalition, where he helps social entrepreneurs leverage fiscal sponsorship to jumpstart their nonprofit endeavors. Tivoni Devor lives in Point Breeze with his wife Jennifer and daughter Ava. The thoughts and content of his columns are his and his alone. You can follow him on Twitter: @tivonidevor.

[1] National Center for Charitable Statistics http://nccsweb.urban.org/tablewiz/bmf.php

[2]http://articles.philly.com/2014-09-19/news/54073776_1_poverty-rate-childhood-poverty-10-percent

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