Think of the Idaho Nonprofit Center as a kind of clubhouse for nonprofits, which make up the sixth largest economic sector in Idaho. The Boise center describes itself as a “bridge” among the nonprofit, for-profit and government sectors.
The center is increasing its reach across the state, even in challenging times.
No one collects information on how Idaho nonprofits are doing overall. But the Idaho Community Foundation, a center member, says requests for its funds doubled in every region of the state this year, indicating that the need for charity persists even as the economy grows.
In such a climate, a supportive group like the Idaho Nonprofit Center becomes more important. It offers resources and connection for the state’s 7,440-plus registered charitable nonprofits. It hosts the annual Idaho Gives, a day-long online blitz that every May. It offers free programs, including Resource Thursdays at the Boise Public Library, regional forums and conferences. It helps businesses support and promote nonprofits in their communities.
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2016 brought a new executive director: Amy Little, who succeeded Janice Fulkerson in April. Fulkerson and her predecessor, Lynn Hoffmann, came to the center from the corporate world. Little came from within the nonprofit sector.
She worked for the chambers of commerce in Sandpoint and Boise. In Portland, Little, a runner, founded Cause + Event, a fundraiser whose participants run or walk for causes of their choice. Little started the run in Portland. It has since expanded to Boise and Boston.
“Amy has an ingrained sense of what nonprofit needs are,” says Carrie Getty Scheid, an Idaho Falls resident and chairwoman of the Idaho Nonprofit Center’s board. “She’s been through baptism by fire and every headache. She’s in a position to listen and create solutions.”
Scheid and fellow board member Laura Smith, public relations manager at Idaho Central Credit Union in Pocatello, say Little’s enthusiasm and character make her a natural cheerleader for the cause. “She loves nonprofits but has a business mindset,” Smith says.
Little, Scheid and Smith want to increase the nonprofit center’s visibility elsewhere in Idaho. The center has dues-paying members from around the state, but it is associated most with the Treasure Valley.
The center’s outreach effort includes hosting webinars. Seventy-four nonprofits signed up for an October webinar to learn how the Obama administration’s new, higher minimum salary for exemption from overtime pay could affect them. (The ruling is on hold for now, because of a judge’s ruling.)
“One of Amy’s jobs will be finding cost-effective ways to buy software and other technology,” Scheid says.
The list of the organization’s newest members suggest the center may be achieving stronger geographic reach. They include the Middleton Library Foundation, the Hagerman Valley Foundation, the Gritman Medical Center Foundation in Moscow and the Music Conservatory of Sandpoint. There’s even a new member from California: Crossroads Family Ranches Inc., a youth development organization that will soon open an Idaho office.
Strategizing to up the donations for Idaho Gives 2017
Idaho Gives, the center’s largest event, will mark its fifth year in 2017. Donations in 2016 totaled $1,053, 681, down $35,000 from 2015.
Little had been on the job 14 days when Idaho Gives rolled around. Scheid, who lives in Idaho Falls, said that despite the overall decline, most of the regions in the state saw increases. The decrease was mainly in the Boise area. Scheid is optimistic about Idaho Gives 2017 and Little’s ability to reach out to more of the state while reinvigorating Boise.
For the first time, the center will set a fundraising goal for Idaho Gives: $1.2 million, or about $150,000 above what was raised in 2016. Little says the amount represents one dollar for every adult in Idaho.
In the past, the center has relied on social media and earned media through news outlets to let donors know about Idaho Gives. To boost giving in 2017, Little says the center will buy TV, newspaper and billboard advertisements and ask employers to spread the word to their employees.
A different company, GiveGab: Nonprofit Giving Platform, will provide the online platform. Little says GiveGab will take a smaller share of donations than the event’s former platform, Razoo, which took close to 9 percent of each donation in fees. GiveGab’s share will be 6.7 percent.
Nonprofits in Idaho Gives compete with nonprofits of similar size to bring in money and to rack up individual donors. Participating nonprofits are listed on the website with donation totals updated throughout the day. For 2017’s event, Little plans to share strategies that have worked for some nonprofits, such as asking for specific amounts with a significant number — $19, for example, if an organization is 19 years old — or setting a goal to pay for a specific piece of medical equipment or other item.
Promoting new ideas for nonprofits
If there is a buzzword in nonprofits today, it is “collaboration.” The center wants to help Idaho nonprofits figure out how to work more effectively with partners that have common goals.
“Our nonprofits are telling us they have a strong desire to collaborate with one another,” Little says. “They don’t necessarily know how to do it,”
Some do. Little cites as one example the Boise/Ada County Homeless Coalition, which includes nonprofits like the Corpus Christi day shelter and the Jesse Tree of Idaho, plus government agencies like the Boise City/Ada County Housing Authority and the Boise School District.
Another example is the Treasure Valley Education Partnership, a coalition that includes United Way Treasure Valley, the YMCA, business leaders and government agencies.
Little would like donors to evolve in their thinking about funding nonprofits, away from funding specific programs and toward “capacity.”
“Generally speaking, that means investment in people,” or other elements that improve a nonprofit’s effectiveness, she said.
“We hear all the time that nonprofit organizations can find volunteers to do the work that needs to be done. But who will you get to oversee the recruiting, training, and managing of all of those volunteers? The reality is, there are just some things for which you have to invest in staff.”
For example, a donor might pay adoption fees for 250 shelter animals. “But who’s going to make sure that shelter cat gets transported to Petco?” Little asks. “If you’re a donor, don’t pay the adoption fees. Help pay for the salary of the person who will run the adoption program efficiently.”
One barometer often used to judge nonprofits is what they spend on overhead. Little says a high overhead might not be bad if it means the organization is achieving its goals. “Look at outcomes, not overhead,” she said.
Donors must not be put off if their charity of choice reports a surplus, she says: “They should know that’s the nonprofit they should feel safe investing in, because it is run well.”
She cites her time with the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce. It ended a year with a $12,000. Some board members panicked, insisting that the money should be spent down to a $0 balance.
“I told the board that we needed to be a model for the business community — that if we were telling businesses to save money, then we should, too,” Little says.
When she left the chamber, it had $70,000 in its bank account.
Anna Webb: 208-377-6431, @IDS_AnnaWebb. This story appears in the December 21, 2016-January 17, 2017, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine as part of a special section on nonprofits. Click here for the Statesman’s e-edition, which includes Business Insider (subscription required).
Idaho nonprofits by the numbers
7,444: Registered nonprofit organizations in Idaho.
29: Nonprofit classifications recognized by the IRS. Familiar ones include 501(c)s, which are public charities serving educational, religious, scientific and literary missions. Only 501(c)3s allow donors to make tax-deductible donations.
68: Percentage of Idaho public charity revenues that are health-related. In second place (excluding Battelle, or Idaho National Laboratory) is education, representing 7 percent.
$2.76 billion: Total compensation of nonprofit employees in Idaho.
$50,849: Average pay for Idaho nonprofit employee. The high end is for a worker at Battelle at $84,938. The low end is for a worker in arts, culture and humanities at $22,708.
40: Percentage of Idaho nonprofit jobs in health care fields.
36: Percentage of Idaho residents who volunteer.
2: Idaho ranks 2nd in the nation in the percentage of residents who volunteer.
Source: Idaho Nonprofit Center, “The Economic Impacts of Idaho’s Nonprofit Organizations,” 2016 update