Over the past four years, 11 people have relocated to Idaho to work for the Boise Philharmonic. The group has a core staff of 17, but more than 100 staffers and musicians work for it during the May to September performance season.
Were just one nonprofit, but from our standpoint, all of the money raised here is spent here, said Executive Director Tom Bennett. We pay our musicians and staff. They pay rent. They buy groceries.
The idea that nonprofit organizations improve the standard of living in Idaho communities providing everything from basketball courts for children to support for environmental causes isnt a surprise to most people.
That nonprofits are big business inspiring investment and providing jobs and tax dollars isnt always so obvious.
Thats the reason the Idaho Nonprofit Center commissioned a first-of-its-kind study on the economic power of the states nearly 4,800 nonprofit organizations.
I was prepared for significant numbers, but people are shocked at the number of people employed by nonprofits, said Lynn Hoffmann, the centers director.
Idaho nonprofits, including hospitals, employ 48,700 people, or 8 per-cent of the states workforce, according to the report by Steven Peterson, a research economist at the University of Idaho. The average annual salary plus benefits for those workers is $43,350.
Peterson said that he was surprised by the diversity of nonprofits in the state, from soup kitchens to Girl Scouts, from private educational facilities to hospitals. Battelle Energy Alliance, which operates the Idaho National Laboratory, employs 4,200 people and accounts for some of the highest nonprofit salaries in the state.
Nonprofits touch us from the time were born to the time we die, but theyre invisible to some extent, Peterson said.
The economic impact of nonprofits likely is even larger than the report indicates, said Hoffman. It doesnt count the states approximately 2,000 churches, she said.
Hospitals represent the largest share of jobs in the nonprofit sector: about 22,000, or just less than half the total.
That still leaves 26,700 people employed by other kinds of nonprofits, Hoffmann said.
The numbers are huge, any way you divide them, said Peterson.
A NONPROFIT LURE
The new report will be a useful tool for nonprofit organizations to help build support, Bennett said.
Theres a perception about nonprofits. Theyre seen as an afterthought, he said.
Bennett ran the South Dakota Symphony in Sioux Falls before moving to Boise. When Citibank moved its headquarters from New York City to Sioux Falls in the early 1980s, the bank became a major supporter of the symphony and other arts groups because leaders were recruiting workers.
The economics people touted safe streets, no income tax, Bennett said. That was the starting point.
The presence of thriving cultural amenities, mostly nonprofits, closed the deal.
Company after company chose Sioux Falls over Fargo or Des Moines because of the arts groups, he said.
Hes seen the economic power of nonprofits closer to home. Hes part of Arts for Idaho, an advocacy group, and has attended meetings in cities across the state, including St. Anthony.
St. Anthony is a town with one stop light, but there are six galleries, all of which employ people, he said.
GETTING THE WORD OUT
Hoffmann has been doing outreach to tell people about the report, speaking to local nonprofit boards, service clubs and classrooms.
Some of her work has involved dispelling misperceptions, including the idea that nonprofits take away from economic prosperity rather than enhance it.
The $1.9 billion that nonprofits contribute to Idahos economic output, or gross state product, represents roughly 5 percent of the whole.
The report also says that as much as $5.9 billion would leave the state if Idaho nonprofits didnt offer high-quality medical care, youth programs, and educational and arts opportunities.
People would seek those things in Seattle or Salt Lake, said Hoffmann.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter spoke about attractions that make Boise a good place to do business during his recent State of the City address. Many of those attractions are nonprofits, said Hoffmann.
We often talk about public/private partnerships, but not so much about nonprofits being in the mix. It takes all three sectors to be a successful community, she said.
IN THE TRENCHES
One thing that the report doesnt capture is all the money nonprofit organizations save parents, said Joey Schueler, director of operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Ada County.
Hes a student in a graduate class on nonprofit management and collaboration. Hoffmann visited the class to tell students about the report.
Boys and Girls Clubs provide enhancement programs, along with healthy meals (organic chicken and strawberries were on the lunch menu recently), on a sliding-fee scale. Parents are able to go to work, contributing to the workforce and the tax base, while knowing their kids are safe.
You talk to parents, single mothers, thats where they want to be, at work, said Schueler.
Boys and Girls Clubs also provide summer reading programs that save schools the burden of helping kids catch back up in the fall, Schueler said.
The board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, largely composed of business people, devoted a whole meeting to looking at the report, said Director Nora Carpenter.
My perspective on nonprofits had been from the value of individual organizations, Carpenter said. But taking the broad look at state nonprofits was very eye-opening.
This report elevates the conversation. We can look at ourselves not only as organizations that support the environment and culture and the community, but as an engine in the economy. Thats a new way to think about what we do.
Anna Webb: 377-6431