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It’s the time of year when we get lots of mail and email asking us to support non-profit organizations.  Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming to be so “popular” with groups you may know just a little about.

Maggi Headshot v2

Maggi Spartz, Unity Foundation

What people often overlook is that non-profit organizations are an important part of our local economy. According to the “Indiana Non-Profits: Scope and Community Dimensions Project,” (http://www.indiana.edu/~nonprof) there were 32,298 IRS-registered exempt entities with Indiana addresses in 2014.  Most (69%) were registered as 501(c)(3) entities with the rest being civic, cemetery or veteran’s groups.  The net impact is that 12% of our jobs and payroll come from the non-profit sector.

In 2014, Community Foundations and United Ways across northern Indiana conducted the first ever comprehensive survey of non-profit salaries and benefits.  20 counties participated and 365 nonprofits shared information about salary, wages and benefits for positions ranging from CEO to secretary to facilities management.  The whole report can be found at https://uflc.net/community-resources/.

All 501c3 organizations were invited, including private schools and school foundations IF they had at least a part time paid position.  Universities, hospitals and public schools were excluded.  These enlightening results were totaled and grouped by regions.  This effort will be repeated in 2 years. The sponsors hop to get substantially more responses from our region, particularly Lake County since they have the greatest number of non-profits.

The report states; “Nonprofit leaders are a resilient, optimistic group by nature. In recent years, client and patron demands have grown while competition for donations and funding becomes ever harder. As we continue the slow road to economic recovery, skilled leadership becomes ever more important – both at the board and staff level. A key goal of this report is to assist the local nonprofit sector in keeping the talent that we have and recruiting capable staff leadership.”

Reading the study makes one wonder why people would choose to work for a non-profit if:

  • Nonprofit workers often work many more hours than they are paid for
  • 53% of organizations do not offer retirement benefits
  • 38% do not offer any health insurance benefits
  • 30% of those with full time staff and 58% with part time staff offer no paid holidays.

If you’ve ever volunteered, you know why someone would work for a non-profit…because it’s rewarding!  Whether you are paid or not, the rewards can be the same; you feel you are making a difference; you get to work with the people, things, animals or nature affected by an issue; you get to enrich people’s lives or even lead social innovation.  Another plus is people can advance their skills or experiences, and for families, 68% of our NWI nonprofits offer flexible work schedules.

So, it’s clear that non-profits do good, hard work that business or government are not interested or equipped to do.  The non-profit sector provides 12% of our local jobs.  These workers are our neighbors, family members, customers and friends.  Let’s thank them for their sacrifices made to improve our quality of life by working for a non-profit organization.  Tom Brokaw’s resonates with, “It’s easy to make a buck.  It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

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