Non-profits pay their way, and then some

By Robb Hicken/ chief storyteller

Businesses, governments and nonprofits move closer together to offer services that may not be found elsewhere, and it’s generating jobs and dollars

Throughout the state there are more than 4,800 501(c)(3) – a tax designation – nonprofit organizations that do good in the communities. Of those, 3,200 have a joint operating budget of nearly $3.6 billion… yes, billion … in 2010.

These cover everything from arts/humanities, education, youth, health, community improvements, recreation and faith-based services.

Nonprofits not only provide valuable programs and services, but are significant employers as well, says Lynn Hoffmann, executive director, of the Idaho Nonprofit Center about the importance these organizations play in the community.

“Without nonprofit organizations, almost 49,000 people would be out of work, the quality of life in any given community would suffer from the lack of arts and cultural activities, there would be fewer youth programs, and we would see a negative impact on our open spaces, rivers and other environmental amenities, among other things,” she says.

She says the burden on state and local governments would increase dramatically as care for the vulnerable residents would fall exclusively on their shoulders. Most organizations work side-by-side with state and local agencies and local businesses.

Charitable nonprofits create as much as $175 million in annual tax revenues from economic activities, according to the Idaho Nonprofit Center 2012 Report.

“And the enrichment we, as citizens receive through volunteering, would disappear without nonprofits to direct and organize us,” Hoffmann says.

The state has a rich history of coming together to solve problems, a lot of it being the scarce population in some rural areas.

“Despite all the challenges that the economic downturn of the past few years has brought, there have been bright spots in the nonprofit community,” she says. “ First, nonprofits have gotten smarter about what programs to focus on and keep and where to find efficiencies. Secondly, there are many creative collaborations that have sprung up in the past few years.”

Several communities’ arts organizations around the state have developed new ways to share resources and even joined in fundraising events, social service agencies are meetings to exchange information about residents in need in their communities, and youth-oriented organizations meet with businesses, schools, medical providers and police to keep kids safe and engaged in positive activities.

“I would favorably compare the inventiveness of the nonprofit sector to that of any other industry in our state,” Hoffman says.

Contributions and community participation are essential in keeping nonprofits running. BBB encourages contributors to checkout an organization before giving. BBB Wise Giving Alliance encourages full disclosure to donors and potential donors at the time of solicitation and afterwards.  Check out a charity at http://www.bbb.org.
With so many options, donors should ask questions, seek answers to how your contribution will be spent and distributed.  BBB recommends ethical practices beyond the act of disclosure to make sure public confidence and encourage giving. Go beyond the requirements of local, state and federal laws and regulations.

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