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The Profits of Charity

Nonprofit organizations are benefiting local business

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Idaho's nonprofit organizations are pumping billions of dollars into the state economy, according to new report by the Idaho Nonprofit Development Center. The report also states that Idaho nonprofits keep the fabric of communities intact by hiring the underemployed and providing valuable job training and work experience to volunteers.

"Nonprofits need to be seen as equal to and as important in status as the business and government sectors when it comes to the economic health and quality of life in a society," says Betsy Dunklin, executive director of INDC.

According to the report, more than 1,100 charitable nonprofits currently operate in Idaho. Together, they made expenditures of $1.4 billion in 2002. From 1992 to 2002, Idaho's nonprofit community saw its combined annual growth rate jump 6.76 percent, while the rest of the nation only grew 5.38 percent. Due to that growth, expenditures rose 9 percent, compared to a 6.77 national increase.

Dunklin says that when expenditures rise, communities benefit doubly. "People think of nonprofits as do-gooders, which they certainly are, but they are also businesses. They pay salaries, they buy the goods they need to provide their services, they bring in money from out of state. They not only provide a service that's in the best interest of the public, they provide a direct economic impact on communities as well," she explains.

Idaho's nonprofits range from hospitals to boys and girls clubs, from universities to conservation groups, and from emergency shelters to organizations working with the elderly, veterans and the disabled.

In the case of one Boise-based nonprofit, a recent consolidation could soon make it a more powerful economic contributor. Last year, Idaho's chapter of the Alzheimer's Association broke off from the Oregon chapter, which had for a year-and-a-half shared its funding.

Executive director Suzette Albers-Tunnell says the change will better Idaho's chances of receiving federal grants and expanding services around the state.

"Nonprofits are being run more like businesses nowadays and boards are bringing in people with business backgrounds to run them," Albers-Tunnell says. "It makes sense we have a stronger economic impact now."

In April, the Alzheimer's Association will host a one-day seminar at The Grove, bringing over 200 visitors to downtown Boise. While the economic impact may not be felt on any grand scale that day, imagine the impact when other nonprofits do the same thing, says Albers-Tunnell.

For all the direct economic impact nonprofits can make, Dunklin likes to stay focused on the indirect contributions, too.

"Think about what life would be like if nonprofits didn't exist. If all the youth organizations, cultural groups, health organizations and professional associations disappeared," Dunklin says. "Businesses couldn't operate here, because no one would want to live in that kind of community."