November 4, 2010

American Express Survey: Americans Trust Nonprofits to Address Societal Concerns

Nonprofit groups face resource challenge to fill leadership roles

Americans are increasingly looking to nonprofit organizations to address major challenges facing the world and their communities. At the same time, these groups sometimes lack sufficient resources to invest in the growth and development of their employees.

A new consumer survey released Monday by American Express showed that 71% of Americans trusted nonprofits more than they trusted the government or industry to address some of the most pressing concerns of the day.

The survey, “Perspectives on Nonprofits,” was conducted by StrategyOne using the field services of Opinion Research Corp. among 1,044 Americans, aged 18 years or older, between Oct. 25 and 26, in the run-up to the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

It showed that 88% of Americans agreed that funding in today's economic climate is a top concern for nonprofit groups. And 83% agreed that these organizations do not always have the resources they need to invest in their employees—this at a time when the need for skilled and dedicated people to lead nonprofit groups has become more essential than ever.

The survey showed the dilemma facing nonprofits: a large and willing pool of potential employees, but with strong reservations about what they would derive from a nonprofit job. According to the survey, 50% of Americans are interested in working for a nonprofit organization, while 33% are not interested. Forty-one percent of those who are interested in nonprofit employment and 42% who are not believe that working for a nonprofit means earning a smaller salary than they might otherwise earn.

Career development is another concern of Americans interested in employment at a nonprofit at some point during their work lives. Fourteen percent of these believe that they would have fewer opportunities for training and leadership development than they would working for other types of organizations.

 “These survey results indicate a clear need for increased investment in nonprofit leadership, and support why we have been committed to dedicating our resources—both financial and intellectual—to address this important and critical issue,” Timothy McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, said in a statement.

American Express released the survey on the first day of its week-long Leadership Academy, a nationwide training program created in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadershipto develop the next generation of leaders in the nonprofit sector. On Wednesday, American Express chairman and chief executive Kenneth Chenault announced to participants that the company would contribute $25 million over five years to the leadership development endeavor.

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