Study: Nonprofits are key economic drivers

Mesa County nonprofit organizations are a major economic driver, contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy, according to a report commissioned by the Community Impact Council.

The study, put together by Nathan Perry, associate economics professor at Colorado Mesa University, surveyed 31 of the 68 nonprofit members of the Community Impact Council and found that those mostly medium and small nonprofits were responsible for an economic contribution of more than $133 million. The CIC commissioned the report to show the impact the nonprofit sector has on the county and to provide credible, scientific data.

Perry noted that economic contribution accounts for both new money coming into the county and money that recirculates in the local economy.

More than $33 million of that contribution money was cited as economic impact, or money that those nonprofits brought in from outside the county. The survey did not include St. Mary’s Medical Center and Colorado Mesa University because those two organizations would have dominated the study. It did, however, include the foundations associated with those large nonprofit organizations.

“There’s been a lot of anecdotal data on the role of nonprofits for a long time,” said Joe Neuhof, executive director of the nonprofit Colorado Canyons Association and a board member of the CIC. “Mesa County has a lot of nonprofits and we wanted to quantify the impacts.”

The figures are compiled from the information given by the 31 nonprofits who participated in the survey, just under half of the CIC members. Mesa County has 225 nonprofits within its boundaries.

Perry asked for information such as revenue sources, employment numbers and expenditures for the study to come up with economic contribution and impact numbers.

Neuhof was happy with the survey turnout and noted that some of the smaller nonprofits who didn’t participate have very limited staff and may not have had the ability to easily gather information on where their revenue comes from. He said the study also shows how much nonprofits contribute and that they are not just organizations looking to fundraise.

“I’d say that generally people think about services and programs but don’t normally think about them being a significant part of local economy and an economic driver,” he said. “This is meant to show that nonprofits play a role in the economic sector as well.”

He added that he believed the numbers would be even larger with more participation in future surveys, but overall the numbers showed great impact.

“We were confident that the numbers were going to be large. There are a number of nonprofits that employ a significant number of folks,” he said.

Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kristi Pollard said the study is important to showcase all that nonprofits bring to the community beyond the causes they support or the people they help. She also hopes this can help encourage the community to help these groups even more.

“The community can recognize that these people are passionate about helping the underserved and protecting public lands,” Pollard said. “It’s an opportunity to really rally around nonprofits and say thank you and also investigate and educate on how to support these folks.”


COMMENTS

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Yes, non-profits may bring money into the local economy, and they do help many people.  But, that ignores the very basic question as to why so many are in need that we have to have so many non-profits?  That, it would seem, is a question that needs to be asked and answered in a very brutal fashion - question that many don’t want to face.

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