Jacksonville Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida Turns 20, Takes Poll

The nonprofit sector is the third most trusted institution in the Jacksonville area, just behind individual volunteers and the military, according to a recent poll commissioned for the 20th anniversary of the Northeast Florida Nonprofit Center.

According to the Believe in the Good Public Perceptions Poll conducted by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab.

Police, businesses, churches and faith-based organizations, colleges and universities, local government, local school boards, state government, philanthropy, and federal government, in that order, were least well off. noted.

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The poll results were released during the center’s 20th anniversary celebration on October 20. 80% said their communities would be better places to live if more people donated money or volunteered to help nonprofits; 78% said they were a vital part of the economy; and 72% think the government should provide more funding to nonprofits.

A scene in the new video from the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, "Believe in the Good," shows children from Neptune Beach Elementary School interacting with a musician from the nonprofit Connecting through Music.  The video was shot by Cre8Jax photographer Toni Smailagic and producer Tigerlily Media.

“One of the most striking statistics in the polling news … is community confidence in the sector. Confidence is our silver bullet,” said center board chair Lisa Johnson. “This is how the non-profit sector gains donors, this is how we can mediate between the government and people in need, this is how we can advocate and lobby effectively without so that people don’t suspect our motives.”

Public attitudes toward nonprofits have changed

When it was launched in 2002, the center released the results of its first public opinion poll. The number of respondents holding a positive view of nonprofits – that they are a vital part of the economy and provide services more efficiently than government, for example – was significantly lower than it was in the 2022 poll. They have increased in the recent poll.

But levels of public trust have fallen, as have rates of donations and volunteer activity. The percentage of respondents who gave money was 80% in 2011 and 63% in 2022, while the percentage of volunteers was 54% in 2011 and 33% in 2022.

“If the next generation does not find themselves welcomed, supported and empowered by our sector – if we fail to listen and learn from the communities in which we work – then we are putting our credibility, our effectiveness and the trust of the community at risk. community,” Johnson said.

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Listening and learning will be the focus of an upcoming campaign by the center to “re-energize community advocacy” through visits with local leaders in neighboring counties, communications director Autumn Lee said. The road show will share survey data and a specially curated digital media campaign to help leaders engage with the nonprofit sector and raise awareness of nonprofits in their communities, he said. she stated.

“A message we hear over and over again is how fractured and divided our society is today, and how that impacts our community’s workforce, politics, economy, culture and on the ability of the nonprofit sector to be effective,” Johnson said. “There is possibility and power to work together.”

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The nonprofits’ job is to show residents how to “be part of a community” through their respective missions, she said.

The center was created in response to a 1998 study of nonprofit organizations by the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. The study highlighted the need for an umbrella organization to support and represent nonprofit organizations. Three years later, the Jessie Ball duPont Fund, Community Foundation for Northeast Florida, Jaguars Foundation, and Weaver Family Foundation and others jointly funded the concept.

Since then the community foundation awarded the center grants that have helped fund nonprofit organizations’ COVID-19 pandemic programs and support the growth of the sector, said President Nina Waters. In addition, philanthropy provides the center with an annual operating grant.

A scene from the Jacksonville Pride Parade is part of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida's new video about the work of nonprofit organizations, such as JASMYN, the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network.  The video was shot by Cre8Jax photographer Toni Smailagic and producer Tigerlily Media.

“We believe that by strengthening the Nonprofit Center, we are strengthening the nonprofit community, and that’s good for the community as a whole,” Waters said. “We thought long and hard… about what community means and our role in strengthening it.”

Survey results – such as the 80% of respondents who think the community would be a better place to live if more people supported nonprofits – “give me confidence in our path ahead and in the work that we chose to do,” she said.

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The center now has 338 members who have benefited from approximately 6,000 hours of coaching. It has provided approximately 2,100 programs to approximately 47,000 people and donated $1.7 million to area nonprofits through its donation platform, WeGive.org, and through a ticket sales partnership with the Jaguars.

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“The nonprofit sector is an indispensable part of a healthy, diverse and thriving community,” said Rena Coughlin, executive director of the center. “The founders … explicitly linked a healthy independent sector to a healthy civil society. One way to achieve a healthy independent sector was to build an organization that worked only to strengthen the local sector.

“The work of the non-profit Center over the past 20 years has been both to strengthen individual organization and its ability to transform lives, and to strengthen the sector as a whole and its ability to transform society. … When the sector is healthy and functioning well, the community as a whole benefits.”

The new video from the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, "Believe in the Good," showcases the work of local non-profit organizations.  The video was shot by Cre8Jax photographer Toni Smailagic and producer Tigerlily Media.

In addition to working to strengthen nonprofits in the region, the center:

  • Provides regular “state of the industry” updates, showing local giving rate and conducting compensation and benefits surveys. “The best intelligence comes from asking our constituents what they live, what they believe, what they need,” Johnson said.
  • Led the creation of a statewide advocacy organization, the Florida Nonprofit Alliance, which lobbies state and federal governments for the sector. “We knew that ensuring the voices of nonprofits were heard in Tallahassee and DC would help tilt the power of influence in the direction of the sector,” Coughlin said.
  • Was the first investor in UNF Florida Data Science for Social Good, which uses data science and technology design to solve social problems. The center remains a program partner “because nonprofits need access to people who can help them turn their data into credible impact stories,” she said.
  • Asked Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to create a cabinet-level position at City Hall, the Office of Strategic Partnershipsthat aligns the public sector with nonprofits and philanthropy to help “achieve community goals”.​​​​​​

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The new video from the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida, "Believe in the Good," features the work of area nonprofits such as Downtown Vision.  The video was shot by Cre8Jax photographer Toni Smailagic and producer Tigerlily Media.

“We have been and continue to be the sponsor and administrative support for crisis response coalitions and collaborations,” Coughlin said. “There are times when our mission asks us to fill a gap in the nonprofit landscape when the benefit of the community is at stake. … We do this because we believe in the good that nonprofits do. non-profit.”

[email protected], (904) 359-4109


Trust the right public perception survey

Some discoveries:

Our community would be a better place to live if more people donated money or volunteered to help nonprofits: 80%

The work nonprofits do creates a fairer, more united community: 77%

Nonprofits deliver services more effectively than government: 81%

Nonprofits make our community more desirable: 78%

Non-profit organizations are a vital part of our economy: 78%

The government should provide more funding to nonprofits: 72%

Nonprofits are well run: 74%

Working in nonprofits is a worthwhile career: 75%

For the full survey report and more information on the centre’s “Believe in the Good” campaign, go to nonprofitctr.org/believe.

Virginia S. Braud