About the Index

About the Index


Economic data on the major sectors of the economy are regularly collected and reported in the media and in industry-specific reports.  That information drives decision-making by business leaders, government officials, investors, and consumers.

Until now, nonprofit leaders have had limited access to this type of information about their sector. Yet, like their counterparts in other industries, nonprofit CEOs and trustees, donors, and policymakers need timely economic data to make informed and strategic decisions about programmatic and operational issues. Now they can through the State of Nonprofits Quarterly Index.

The State of Nonprofits Quarterly Index is San Diego’s only index charting the economic health of nonprofits. It is published quarterly with a cumulative report released annually. The report provides data about seven distinct indicators that have a direct impact on the economic health of San Diego nonprofit organizations.

These data can be used to:

  • Guide nonprofits in organizational decision-making
  • Inform policymakers in budget and legislative decision-making
  • Provide funders with an up-to-date description of sector trends

Previous Index Reports.

Index Components:

Icon with two people giving approval.1. Public Confidence
Public confidence in the nonprofit sector is vital to the sector’s existence. Confidence affects individual and corporate giving. Generally, confidence is increased through organizational transparency and timely reporting, both of which have financial consequences for nonprofits. Confidence is also closely associated with awareness. Individuals with greater awareness of the nonprofit sector tend to be more likely to volunteer, make donations, and have greater confidence. In this report, sector confidence is measured quarterly through the Caster Center Giving and Volunteering Survey, which is administered quarterly to San Diego residents in partnership with Luth Research, and from leaders of local nonprofits.

Icon of two hands holding a heart.2. Individual Giving
In both 2009 and 2010, individual giving in the United States accounted for approximately $211.77 billion according to Giving USA. For many nonprofits, giving by individuals accounts for the majority of their funding.  Individual giving is often unrestricted income which can be applied to a nonprofit’s most pressing financial needs. Trends in individual giving have a strong impact on nonprofits’ ability to operate effectively. This survey measures individual giving trends through the Caster Center Giving and Volunteering Survey, which is administered quarterly to San Diego residents in partnership with Luth Research.

Icon of two people surrounded by a circle that signifies participation.3. Volunteerism
Volunteerism is a unique component to the overall health of the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits provide an opportunity for individuals to be of service to their community locally, nationally, and internationally. It has been documented that volunteerism provides benefits to volunteers in terms of improved health, human connectivity, job skills, and an increased sense of purpose. In turn, nonprofits depend upon the generosity of volunteers to fulfill their missions. Indeed, many nonprofits are supported almost entirely through the generosity of volunteers. All nonprofits are governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. This survey measures fluctuations in volunteerism through the Caster Center Giving and Volunteering Survey, which is administered quarterly to San Diego residents in partnership with Luth Research.

Icon of three people.4. Demand for Service
Demand for service is a key indicator of the economic health of nonprofits, especially when compared to revenue indicators such as individual giving. In an ideal world, demand for service and availability of funding would correlate. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. When the economy is struggling, individual giving often decreases just when demand for service increases. For the purposes of this report, demand for service is measured in partnership with 211 San Diego. By monitoring trends in 211’s call records and service requests, this report provides a timely, accurate reflection of the demand for service placed on local nonprofits.

Icon of dollar dollar bills.5. Nonprofit Sector Wages
Wages are a key element in attracting and retaining high quality staff in any sector. Due to unstable and/or inadequate funding, nonprofits often offer compensation at lower ends of the salary scale. Many would argue that the opportunity to work towards a mission is a benefit which “supplements” salary. The counterargument is that lower wages increase turnover which is financially costly and places added strain on the clients and other staff. This component of the index measures the variation in wages paid by nonprofits. Data is reported directly from San Diego area nonprofits. Due to the nature of this component, this portion of the report is released annually rather than quarterly.

Icon of a briefcase.6. Nonprofit Employment
In 2009, nonprofits accounted for almost 10% of all wages and salaries in the United States, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. In San Diego, nonprofit employment accounts for 6% of all wages, according to the Spotlight on San Diego’s Third Sector Report, and is a larger percentage of the local workforce than either the state or federal government. Employment in the nonprofit sector is influenced by myriad factors including grant cycles, funding interests, government budget allocations, individual philanthropy, as well as the overall economic health of the county, state, and nation. For the purpose of this report, employment is measured in two ways. First, employment data is collected directly from a panel of local nonprofit Trend Reporters and the Employment Development Department. Second, the research team analyzes nonprofit job postings on www.npworks.org. Job posting data is released quarterly. Data collected from San Diego area nonprofits and the Employment Development Department is presented in the annual report.

Icon of a magnifying glass over a document.7. Overall Unemployment
The Unemployment Rate in San Diego County has a direct effect on the economic health of nonprofits. The impact is two-fold. First, the unemployment rate provides data about the economic status of San Diego’s total population. When people are unemployed they are more likely to need the kinds of services offered through health and human service nonprofits.  Thus, the unemployment rate is an important indicator about demand for vital social services including emergency food or shelter assistance and job re-training programs.  Second, since San Diego’s nonprofit payrolls comprise nearly 6% of the county’s total wages, the overall unemployment rate is an important indicator for nonprofit job market itself.  Unemployment data is collected directly from the Employment Development Department of the State of California.

Icon of a graph showing an arrow climbing towards profits.USD’s Leading Economic Index
For more than 20 years, Alan Gin, Ph.D. has published a monthly leading economic index of San Diego’s economy. Gin’s Index is published through the University of San Diego’s Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate. It skillfully reduces local economic performance into one number, which is made up six components: Building Permits, Stock Prices, Help Wanted Advertising, Unemployment Insurance, Consumer Confidence, and National Economy. The economic health of the nonprofit sector in San Diego is interconnected with the health of the local, state, and national economies. For that reason, Gin’s Index, which inspired the State of Nonprofits Quarterly Index, is included here as a supplement.

Nonprofit Economic Trend Reporters

This report is indebted to a panel of San Diego-based nonprofits that provide quarterly data on select indicators described above. This panel of “Trend Reporters” was systematically chosen based on size and focus to represent San Diego area nonprofits. For a full list of participating organizations, please see our “Trend Reporters” page.

The Caster Center Giving and Volunteering Survey

Administered quarterly, the Caster Center Giving and Volunteering Survey monitors key indicators such as volunteerism, individual giving, and confidence. The survey sample is representative of San Diego’s population, thus providing reliable data.

Meet the Research Team:

This report is conducted by the Caster Family Center’s team of researchers which includes faculty and doctoral students at the University of San Diego’s Leadership Studies Department within the School of Education and Leadership Studies.

  • Laura Deitrick, PhD
  • Mary Jo Schumann, PhD
  • Fred Galloway, EdD
  • Alan Gin, PhD (Project Advisor)
  • Tessa Tinkler, PhD
  • Kim Hunt, MA
  • Crystal Trull, MA
  • Michelle Ahearne, MA
  • Azadeh Davari, MSc

Caster Center Affiliated Faculty:

The following faculty of University of San Diego’s School of Education and Leadership are affiliated with the Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research.

  • Paula Cordeiro, EdD
  • Bob Donmoyer, PhD
  • Fred Galloway, EdD
  • Zachary Green, PhD
  • Marcus Lam, PhD
  • Ian Martin, EdD
  • Hans Peter Schmitz, PhD