Research Round Robin: July 2019

We’ve collected another month’s worth of research that interested us and has broad sector relevance. This set comes from recent weeks and includes insights on trends in public health, charitable giving, and public confidence in the charities and NGOs that deliver vital services.

Place-Based Drivers of Mortality: Evidence from Migration

A year ago, groundbreaking research released by the National Center for Health Statistics garnered attention by revealing a compelling correlation between Zip code and life expectancy. In some places, writes Washington Post data reporter Christopher Ingraham, “the difference between dying in your 50s and dying in your 80s can be measured in the span of a few blocks.” Of course, in some ways, place is simply a proxy for many factors that affect longevity. That’s why economists from Stanford and MIT set out to disentangle some of the drivers affecting those differences from place to place. Though a definitive reason for the geographic bearing on life expectancy would require more research, the latest study on place-based mortality points to significant correlations, including the availability and quality of health care, the quality of weather and climate, and most importantly, something they call “health capital”—a factor determined by prior health behaviors, medical care, and genetic inheritances.

More on the report:
• How moving to the right place can prolong your life

Analysis of U.S. trends in nonprofits and charitable giving

The data science firm Civis Analytics analyzed public tax filings from 353,000 nonprofits using a machine learning method called topic modeling to create new maps showing the issues different states prioritize. For the purpose of these maps, Civis defines prioritization by the issue area each state has the most organizations working on. The map of most frequent topic assignment, by state, featured earlier this month in Fast Company shows that by and large, the bulk of the U.S. prioritizes work aimed at helping vulnerable populations. Only eleven states in the contiguous U.S. dissent from the trend. Youth character development organizations are the most prevalent among nonprofits in four states, economic development nonprofits comprise the largest proportion of nonprofits in four other states, and two states have more nonprofits working on affordable housing than any other issue. The topic with the greatest average revenue by state varies more, with six different topics taking the lion’s share in different parts of the contiguous U.S. The models, Civis Director of Applied Data Science Scarlett Swerdlow told Fast Company, are designed to help us “understand the needs that the nonprofit sector is serving and which organizations are receiving the most support and funding to do that work.”

More on the report:
• What mapping every nonprofit in the U.S. tells us about the state of the industry

One in Three Worldwide Lack Confidence in NGOs

A new poll of more than 144,000 people across 140 countries on public attitudes toward science and health by Gallup and Wellcome Trust found that only a little more than half of the global population has confidence in the charities operating within their country’s borders. Concurrently, of the respondents surveyed, 79% think vaccines are safe and 84% agree that they’re effective—a contrast that suggests that people perhaps trust the services and interventions more than the people delivering them. In the report summary, the researchers say that the data on trust is significant insofar as it dictates the “spheres and activities [charities and NGOs] can undertake within societies.”

More on the report:
• The world relies on charity work—it just doesn’t totally trust who’s doing it

Giving USA 2019

(Paid report)

Charities feared that the 2017 tax law would lead to a drop in charitable giving by individuals. The latest edition of Giving USA Foundation’s annual report on philanthropy, released last month, shows that the fear has been proven out. Charitable donations by individuals dropped last year by the most since the financial crisis. Though it’s true that a late-year stock-market dip dampened the effects of the growing economy, the decline in overall donors is a concerning (if unsurprising) trend in that individual giving dropped last year by 3.4% despite a strong economy, compared to 3% growth in 2017. One of the researchers behind the latest Giving USA report, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Associate Dean for Research Una Osili, wrote in The Conversation last month that the drop in individual giving is the sharpest inflation-adjusted rate of decline since the Great Recession.

More on the study:
• Charitable Gifts Slip in First Year Under New Tax Law
• How the tax overhaul contributed to a drop in charitable giving
• American giving lost some ground in 2018 amid tax changes and stock market losses
• Americans slashed their charitable deductions by $54 billion after Republican tax-code overhaul
• Ensuring that Charitable Giving is Accessible to All Americans

In light of this decline in individual giving, Independent Sector has recently prepared toolkits (with a bunch of pretty graphics!) to help mobilize networks and lawmakers to take action to fix the tax code by expanding giving incentives to all taxpayers as both a matter of fairness and sound economic policy. Share the messages far and wide using #EveryDonationCounts

2019 KIDS COUNT Data Book

The 30th edition of Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count Data Book has once again compiled statistics about our nation’s children to illustrate the challenges ahead and the changing demographics of young people in our country. Some of the biggest changes in those demographics since the last edition of the Data Book include these data points:

  • The number of children in the U.S. rose from 64 million to 74 million
  • The proportion of children of color rose from 31% to 49%
  • The share of children with at least one immigrant parent has doubled since 1990 from 13% to 26%. In most individual states, that share tripled or quadrupled.

In the foreword for the report, Annie E. Casey Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hamilton cites these demographic shifts and others to underscore the urgency of creating policies and opportunities that work for all kids, particularly as children and families of color continue to face inequities that impact education, health, economic, and employment outcomes across the board.

More on the analysis:
• Child poverty is as bad now as it was 30 years ago–here’s how we can make progress again

If you’re a foundation executive looking to center racial equity within your organization and mission, you’re invited to join Lisa Hamilton and the Presidents’ Forum on Racial Equity in Philanthropy Wednesday, August 14, for Centering Racial Equity in Philanthropy, the first session of a new webinar series.

Cancer treatment and survivorship statistics, 2019

The latest in a series of reports produced every three years by the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute finds that the number of people in the U.S. with a personal history of cancer will rise from 16.9 million to 22.1 million in the next decade. Though the incidence rates aren’t trending toward a significant decline in women or men, the report cites new advances in treatment and better early screening and diagnostic techniques for improving survival rates across the board. However, about two-thirds of cancer survivors are 65 or older. That figure, report co-author Robin Yabroff of the American Cancer Society told U.S. News and World Report, carries significant implications for the health care sector, as there will undoubtedly be an ever-growing population of patients living with the side effects of cancer and treatment.

More on the research:
• There Will Be Over 22 Million Cancer Survivors In The U.S. By 2030, Says New Report
• As Cancer Survivors Increase, Hardships Remain

On Being the Tipping Point: Social Threshold Incentives Motivate Behavior

Two business professors from Harvard and University of Virginia shared last month about a study they conducted on the effectiveness of “tipping point” appeals in fundraising. Tipping point psychology, as researchers Lalin Anik and Michael Norton describe it, entails telling a prospective donor that they could be the person who takes a fundraising campaign over the top. In many cases, it’s proven to be a powerful motivator. Anik and Norton found that “simply being given the opportunity to be the tipping point increased the percentage of people donating from 49% to 67%.” The researchers are exploring different possible uses for tipping point psychology but say that fundraisers can put the technique to immediate use. “Organizations and individuals should consider breaking down a very large goal…into a series of smaller goals to create a chain of tipping points,” Anik and Norton write in Wall Street Journal.

More on the research:
• How Charities Can Use ‘Tipping Points’ To Get You to Donate

Add Your Voice

The research summaries above are by no means an exhaustive list of the newest information out there to help us better understand the nonprofit landscape. So if we missed a report you think we should know and share about, let us know by leaving a comment!

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Data, Ethics and Accountability, Health and Human Services, IS Member, Nonprofit Capital, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Voices for Good