Think about it. You may have been born in a nonprofit hospital. You might enjoy community theater or run on the path or riverfront — perhaps with a dog in tow that you got from a humane society. You might listen to public radio on your commute, or cook dinner while your child enjoys Big Bird courtesy of public television.
Perhaps you or someone you know has been challenged with a health issue and were helped by a nonprofit providing home health, financial assistance or direct services, maybe helped by advances from nonprofit research. Your child may attend a nonprofit day care, and benefit from groups like the PTA, school booster clubs, programs addressing disabilities, or afterschool programs for teens.
Across your community, nonprofits are at work serving the homeless, cleaning blighted neighborhoods, saving beloved landmarks, delivering meals to the elderly, bringing art and culture into our lives. Finally, the place that you die could very well be a nonprofit hospice. The arc of your life is literally lived in nonprofits, and you should support them because they touch your life, and enrich your life, in so many ways.
You should support nonprofits because they make your communities thrive.
According to a 2012 economic impact study conducted by Georgia Tech and the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, nonprofits employ more than 6 percent of all private sector workers in our state. That means that, at a minimum, 237,000 people are employed directly by nonprofits. Add those who are employed indirectly or as a result of nonprofit purchases and the total rises to more than 500,000 jobs.
To put this in perspective, Georgia’s nonprofits employ roughly as many people as our state’s finance and insurance industries, and more than its transportation, construction, information, accommodation and food service industries combined. If the sector were to evaporate, not only would people lose vital services, communities would lose jobs and about $10 billion in personal income. And the funding that nonprofits receive from federal grants, individuals and foundations has direct economic impact on local communities, supporting local needs and creating local jobs.
Beyond their rich contribution in service and their economic impact, nonprofits drive innovation and attract talent to our communities. Georgia is home to iconic organizations like CARE, American Cancer Society, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and Emory University. We are the birthplace of the Girl Scouts and Habitat for Humanity.
Beyond the commerce generated, our sector attracts talent — leaders in social, health, academic, policy and research disciplines. And they are doing amazing things. For example, the Shepard Spinal Center is creating a robotic exoskeleton to help injured veterans regain mobility. The CDC Foundation and the Carter Center are making health breakthroughs here and around the world through research and innovation. Atlanta’s Beltline and Center for Civil and Human Rights initiatives are making news around the world and attracting world class talent in design, architecture, environmental science, history and humanities.
Cities like Savannah are tourist attractions because of the richness of their historic and cultural institutions. Consider the intellectual vitality that Emory University brings to the Decatur community, and how smaller local organizations like the Tommy Nobis Center and the Center for Visually Impaired are innovating the way jobs are created for the disabled. All of this creates a rich soup of thought leadership, creativity and investment that is the “go juice” of a thriving economy and the sticky elements that attract and keep talented workers here.
Nonprofits are not a nicety, they are an essential — both for your community and for the economic and competitive viability of our state. Building a great community requires us to think more expansively about what community really looks and feels like, define our personal role in creating the kind of place we want to live and work, and engage in working together to make it a reality. For that reason alone, they are worthy of your support. But even more basic than that: nonprofits are really for you. You can count on nonprofits to be there for you and your family to make where you live, work and play a better place.
Today is the first annual Georgia Gives Day. It’s a day when the nonprofit sector is asking all Georgian’s to work together to support the causes we all care about by giving a little or a lot on www.GAgivesday.org. Today, find a cause that matters to you and give.
Karen Beavor is president and CEO of Georgia Center for Nonprofits.