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BDO Issues First Annual Nonprofit Standards, a Benchmarking Survey
[June 12, 2017]

BDO Issues First Annual Nonprofit Standards, a Benchmarking Survey

The BDO Institute for Nonprofit ExcellenceSM announces today the release of the first annual BDO Nonprofit Standards, a benchmarking survey designed in partnership with The NonProfit Times.

The survey is intended to provide tax-exempt organizations with a barometer to measure performance on key areas including strategic planning, operations, scope and impact, human resources and governance.

With breakouts by revenue and sector, nonprofits of all sizes and missions can use the report's data to find out how they compare to their peers. Organizations can also leverage the findings to help them make important strategic decisions to improve long-term sustainability and success.

Lead findings include:

Staff retention, funding squeezes and board leadership rank among top challenges.

Staff retention and recruitment ranks as the number one challenge for nonprofits, cited by 72 percent of the respondents. Cutbacks in funding and drops in revenue follows, identified by 48 percent of nonprofits. Attracting quality leadership and board members (cited by 34 percent), rising costs (33 percent), compliance with government regulations (28 percent) and excess demand for services (25 percent) were also among the other top challenges.

"People are at the heart of the nonprofit sector-and the data reflects that organizations deeply value their staff, leadership and board members. To maximize tightening budgets, it's increasingly important to cultivate effective leadership at the board level and competent, effective management to conduct operations," said Laurie De Armond, partner and national co-leader of BDO's Nonprofit & Education practice.

Organizations may be overlooking liquidity issues.

While only 11 percent of nonprofits name liquidity as a concern, most (53 percent) maintain less than six months of liquid restricted net assets. The liquidity deficit is stark among health and human services organizations-nearly one-quarter (23 percent) do not maintain any operating reserves, compared to just six percent of public charities.

"Liquidity issues can often fly under the radar for organizations. Nonprofits are facing an unprecedented level of uncertainty this year, as government funding-at both the federal and state level-hangs in the balance. To protect themselves from any negative impact of continued funding shortfalls, it is essential that nonprofits take proactive measures to focus on sustainability and build up their reserves," said Adam Cole, partner and national co-leader of BDO's Nonprofit & Education practice.

Redefining scope for future operations.

Nonprofits look to many different strategies to ensure sustainability and further their missions. While the majority of organizations (70 percent) did not increase their scope last year, survey results suggest that hopes for increased activity remain. Over the next two years, 56 percent of nonprofits plan to introduce new programs. Of those organizations, 27 percent will eliminate some current programs and introduce new ones.

BDO Nonprofit Standards, a Benchmarking Survey

These findings are from BDO's first annual Nonprofit Standards, a national benchmarking survey of 105 nonprofit organizations, across a variety of sectors with revenue above $10 million as of their last fiscal year. The survey was conducted in partnership with The NonProfit Times and fielded by Campbell Rinker, a market research firm.

To find out how your nonprofit compares to industry peers, view the full report here.

You can also view the following individual sections:


BDO's Institute for Nonprofit Excellence (the Institute) has the skills and knowledge to provide high quality services and address the needs of the nation's nonprofit sector. Based in our Greater Washington, DC Metro office, the Institute supports and collaborates with BDO offices around the country and the BDO International network to develop innovative and practical accounting and operational strategies for the tax-exempt organizations they serve. The Institute also serves as a resource, studying and disseminating information pertaining to nonprofit accounting and business management. The Institute offers both live and local seminars, as well as webinars, on a variety of topics of interest to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions.


BDO is the brand name for BDO USA, LLP, a U.S. professional services firm providing assurance, tax, advisory and consulting services to a wide range of publicly traded and privately held companies. For more than 100 years, BDO has provided quality service through the active involvement of experienced and committed professionals. The firm serves clients through more than 60 offices and over 500 independent alliance firm locations nationwide. As an independent Member Firm of BDO International Limited, BDO serves multi-national clients through a global network of 1,408 offices in 154 countries.

BDO USA, LLP, a Delaware limited liability partnership, is the U.S. member of BDO International Limited, a UK company limited by guarantee, and forms part of the international BDO network of independent member firms. BDO is the brand name for the BDO network and for each of the BDO Member Firms. For more information please visit:


The NonProfit Times, the flagship publication of NPT Publishing Group in Morris Plains, N.J., is the leading business publication for nonprofit management. Geared to the executive suite, The NonProfit Times delivers news, business information and original research on the daily operations of tax-exempt organizations.

Nonprofit managers have come to rely on The NonProfit Times, with more than 300,000 unique subscribers to the various offerings.

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