Daily Sentinel Applauds Economic Impact of Mesa County Non-Profits

Study: Nonprofits are key economic drivers

By Joe Vaccarelli
Monday, September 25, 2017

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel


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.”

Big value in nonprofits

By The Daily Sentinel Editorial Board
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Nonprofits are the Rodney Dangerfields of the economy. They’re celebrated for providing important services or promoting worthwhile causes, but get no respect for their sizable economic contribution to the community.

It’s easy to discount their impact. While most people would agree that nonprofits provide value via their social impact on the community — feeding the hungry or fighting for clean air, for example — few would regard them collectively as a significant economic driver.

But they are. The Community Impact Council, which represents 60 Mesa County nonprofits, conducted an economic impact study based on surveys completed by 31 small to medium-sized 501(c)(3) members.

The study found those 31 nonprofits provide a gross economic contribution of $133.8 million to Mesa County’s gross regional product of $5.4 billion.

This contribution creates 2,161 full- and part-time jobs with a total labor income of $77 million. CIC members bring $67 million from outside the county. Once adjusted for leakages, supply chain effects and multiplier effects, the total economic impact — or the direction infusion of outside dollars into the local economy — is $33.4 million.

“We’re not just standing there with our hands out all the time — we’re actually contributing to the economy,” Doug Sorter told the Sentinels editorial board Monday. Sorter, who holds a leadership position with CIC, is the vice president of business operations and development at Strive.

The study didn’t include Colorado Mesa University or St. Mary Hospital, although it did include their foundations. CIC leaders feared that doing so would have strained the credulity of the numbers. There are far more nonprofits in the county — 223 — than CIC’s membership reflects, however. Several nonprofits, including the United Way of Mesa County, didn’t have the staff capacity to respond to the survey.

The picture, however incomplete, tells a story: Nonprofits are an overlooked sector contributing to the vitality of the local economy. The CIC, which is a melding of the former Human Services Council and the Community Impact Network, undertook the study after an anecdotal collection of data suggested nonprofits played a much bigger role in economic activity than anyone imagined. Dr. Nathan Perry, an economist at CMU, performed the study and validated the CIC’s original conclusion.

Unfortunately, the study can’t pinpoint whether the economic churn from nonprofits is greater in Mesa County compared to similar-sized communities. It would be interesting to learn whether a tax-averse community is more reliant on nonprofits for services that cash-strapped local governments can’t provide.

We should be thankful, first and foremost, for the presence of nonprofits because they fill gaps that for-profit businesses and government can’t or won’t. But we should remember that the fattest line on most nonprofits’ budgets is payroll and benefits, which ripple across the local economy.

Nonprofits give back in more ways than we’ve understood.