BLOOMINGTON and INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—Based on a 2017 survey, a large majority of Indiana local government officials (LGOs) reported having positive working relationships with most types of institutions. About four-fifths of LGOs reported very or somewhat positive working relationships with nonprofits and local businesses; about three-fourths with schools, townships, and county governments; and slightly fewer with libraries and state, city, and town governments. Less than half do so with regard to the federal government
These and other findings are the subject of a new report on Indiana Local Government Officials’ Opinions on Working Relationships with Nonprofits released today by the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
The report is based on data from periodic surveys by the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (IACIR) on issues affecting local governments and residents in Indiana. The report relies mainly on data from the 2017 survey with comparisons to similar questions in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 surveys.
“Our findings predate the COVID-19 pandemic, which will significantly test how LGOs work with other institutions, including local charities and other nonprofits,” said Kirsten Grønbjerg, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor at the O’Neill School and Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, who directs the Indiana Nonprofits Project. “However, good working relationships with nonprofits allow local governments to more effectively coordinate services and to more quickly resolve and respond to emerging problems.”
The report shows that LGOs have consistently (since 2012) ranked their working relationships with local nonprofits higher than their working relations with most general purpose government – federal, state, county, city, and town governments.
Other findings show that LGOs rate working relationships with nonprofits generally more positively if they hold office in a central-city metropolitan county, if voter participation in their county is high, and if the direction their community is heading is positive (as reported by LGOs). Additionally, LGOs rate working relationships with nonprofits more negatively if average aggregate income for public charities in the county is high and if current community conditions are a major problem (as reported by LGOs).
“These findings point to the importance of community characteristics in understanding how LGOs rate their working relationships with nonprofits,” said Grønbjerg. “Nonprofit leaders should be aware of the factors that affect how LGOs view working relationships with nonprofits, as they seek to more fully understand and improve their relationships with units of local government.”
“The current COVID-19 pandemic will inevitably result in more problematic community conditions; some communities will be particularly hard hit. Responding to the pandemic will certainly test LGOs’ working relationships with a full range of institutions,” Grønbjerg notes.
“As a result, working relationships with local nonprofits and charities may come to be viewed less positively, although perhaps only in the short run,” Grønbjerg added. “Alternatively, LGOs may come to appreciate the many positive contributions local nonprofits and charities make to local communities.”
The pandemic may introduce similar dynamics for how LGOs assess working relationships with all other institutions and general purpose government. Much, however, will depend on how the various institutions respond to the crisis. The project plans to monitor these developments.
“The members of the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (IACIR) have had an ongoing interest in the strength of working relationships that local government officials have with other institutions, ranging from the federal government to a variety of local institutions. The Indiana Nonprofits Project’s work provides valuable information for policymakers considering how to work most effectively with such institutions,” said Jamie Palmer, director of IACIR.
The complete Indiana Local Government Officials’ Opinions on Working Relationships with Nonprofits, including additional findings, is available free of charge online. For more information on the Indiana Nonprofits Project: Scope and Community Dimensions, see nonprofit.indiana.edu.
About the report
This is the ninth report is part of a series on nonprofit-government relations in Indiana from the Indiana Nonprofits Project: Scope and Community Dimensions. The data for these briefings come from periodic surveys by the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (IACIR) on issues affecting local governments and residents in Indiana. Other briefings have examined 2-1-1 services, payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), and LGO trust in nonprofits.
These analyses are a joint effort of the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington and the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI. The co-authors of the briefing include project director Kirsten Grønbjerg and research assistant and Indiana University undergraduate student Elizabeth McAvoy.
For more information, contact James Boyd at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, 812-856-5490 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Adriene Davis Kalugyer at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, 317-278-8972 or email@example.com.
About the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (IACIR)
The mission of the IACIR is to create effective communication, cooperation, and partnerships between the federal, state, and local units of government to improve the delivery of services to the citizens of Indiana. The Center for Urban Policy and Environment, now known as the IU Public Policy Institute, was named by the General Assembly to staff the IACIR.
About the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Bloomington
The O’Neill School (formerly SPEA) is a world leader in public and environmental affairs and is the largest school of public administration and public policy in the United States. In the 2021 "Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs" by U.S. News & World Report, O’Neill ranks first in the country. Additionally, six of its specialty programs are ranked in the top-five listings, including the number one nonprofit management program.
About the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI is dedicated to improving philanthropy to improve the world by training and empowering students and professionals to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change. The school offers a comprehensive approach to philanthropy – voluntary action for the public good – through its academic, research and international programs and through The Fund Raising School, Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy and the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. Follow us on Twitter @IUPhilanthropy or “Like” us on Facebook.