Promoting the Contribution of Nonprofits to the Economy

Promoting the Contribution of Nonprofits to the Economy

November 3rd, 2011

by Dan Schipp


Last week I attended the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations (OANO) and the Ohio Attorney General’s Joint Nonprofit Conference

A focus of the conference was the release of OANO’s Nonprofit Sector Report.  The report, based on 2009 data, draws on information compiled by the Urban Institute’s National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Center for Civil Society Studies at John Hopkins University. 

 The purpose of the OANO report is to provide nonprofit leaders with a tool to use to heighten awareness of the economic impact of the nonprofit sector.

According to the OANO report, 14,787 reporting charitable nonprofits in Ohio had $68.3 billion in expenditures in 2009 and contributed more than 13.8% of Ohio’s Gross National Product.  A hefty 9.8% of the total Ohio workforce was employed by nonprofit organizations.  This made the nonprofit sector the fourth largest industry in the state, behind only manufacturing, retail trade, and local government.

OANO urged the boards and staffs of nonprofits to use the report data to educate policymakers and business leaders about the economic impact that the nonprofit sector has at local, state and national levels. 

In this time of increasing pressure on nonprofits to do more with less and amid a growing discussion of reducing tax advantages for those who contribute to nonprofits, it is important to call attention not only to the role of nonprofits in changing, enriching and saving lives through arts and culture, education, healthcare, and social services, but the significant contribution they make to our nation’s economy.

As one conference speaker noted, years ago our governmental leaders wisely acknowledged the importance of the nonprofit sector by establishing the tax deduction for charitable gifts.  Today some are calling for capping the charitable deduction.  The speaker warned that capping the tax deduction would lead to continued chopping away of the deduction and its eventual elimination.

The Joint Nonprofit Conference presentations on the OANO Nonprofit Sector Report reminded me of the “best practice” that some nonprofits have of regularly assessing their economic impact and sharing this information with their boards, civic leaders, and local business community. 

When was the last time your organization looked at the contribution it makes to the local and state economy?  When was the last time you had a discussion with your board about the economic significance of the nonprofit sector?

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