Report shows funding, finding right talent are biggest challenges for nonprofits

By Kristen MerrifieldApril 22, 2016

One of the main responsibilities of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits is to continually check the pulse of the sector. In that spirit, late last year we held a group of statewide focus group sessions with our members, as well as key stakeholders and partners. We set out to understand the top challenges and opportunities facing nonprofits, including whether or not they felt they had access to the right level of resources to help them be most successful.  

We also wanted to hear about their interaction with the Alliance and what we could do to better serve them in the years ahead. More than 100 participants provided us with a wide breadth of invaluable feedback that was rolled into a 150-page report. Here’s a snapshot of what we discovered.   

Top Challenges  

It will come as no surprise that the No. 1 challenge facing nonprofits continues to be access to funding, specifically that which is flexible, diverse and adequate as needs rise and resources dwindle. We were pleased to see that one area in which the Alliance has excelled was in grant-related resources, specifically through Arizona Guide to Grants Online and access to Grant Station.  

Participants also requested that the Alliance use its influence and communication platform to help nonprofits connect and partner with funders. It will be important for the Alliance to strategically expand its programs to provide members with the support they need in grant-writing, fund-raising and other fund-development initiatives.  

Along with access to funding, participants identified the following top challenges currently facing their organizations (listed below in order of frequency of mention):  

  • Funding, Attracting/Retaining Talent  
  • Organizational, Bandwidth/Capacity Building, Sustainability, & Branding/Marketing.  

Resources Assessment  

The Alliance also wanted to gain a better understanding of what the need for resources would be over the next three years, including whether or not the nonprofits felt that they had success to the right types and levels of resources in order to sustain their work in the future. 

The Big Picture  

One of the top challenges for the Alliance moving forward will be to determine the best strategy for serving an extremely diverse set of members and nonprofits, while remaining focused on the organization’s strengths.  

In the hundreds of responses that participants candidly provided, there are several recurring messages, opportunities, challenges and needs represented. There is an overarching call for the Alliance to truly operate as a statewide organization, paying thoughtful and meaningful attention to all areas of the state. This must include physical outreach, constant gathering of feedback, and keeping a pulse on regional issues and collective needs. It should also include strategic partnerships and collaboration with organizations already providing critical resources in each geographic area.   

The Focus Group project was the first step in strengthening the Alliance’s commitment to its members and the nonprofit community they serve. However, it is only one step in a long journey. Keeping the doors of communication open with all stakeholders will be critical to the Alliance’s future growth, success and ability to impact and serve the nonprofit community in Arizona. Now, we must use this critical input to guide our path and forge ahead.   

We invite you to share your feedback, challenges and opportunities with the Alliance to help us better serve your nonprofit. You can email us at  

Also, a full summary of the Focus Group project is available upon request.