Idaho Nonprofits Flexing Economic Muscles
Idaho Nonprofits Flexing Economic Muscles

Idaho nonprofits funnel $4.8 billion per year into the state’s economy that they raise from out-of-state sources, helping to provide critical public services in a state where residents pride themselves on limited government.

As the state’s fifth largest private employer by sector, Idaho nonprofits are also an economic engine providing more than 67,000 jobs, or about 12% of Idaho’s workforce. That’s more than who work in either agriculture or construction.

These and other contributions to Idaho’s prosperity and quality of life could be endangered if a growing number of Idaho legislators opposed to accepting federal dollars on behalf of the state’s nonprofits have their way, warn leaders of the state’s leading nonprofit advocacy coalition.

With the help of researchers at the University of Idaho and Boise State University, the data was published by the Idaho Nonprofit Center, an umbrella organization representing the interests of more than 9,000 registered nonprofits across the state. The data is part of the newly-published “20q22 State of the Sector” report. The “2022 State of the Sector” report is the latest in a series of comprehensive studies the group began publishing 10 years ago.

“You cannot walk more than a block without encountering the impact of a nonprofit,” said Kim Ellsworth, the organization’s marketing and communications director. “Nonprofits are responsible for providing meals for seniors, protecting beautiful views, jobs for veterans, world-class musical performances, helping youth achieve their dreams, and so much more.”

While there isn’t a breakdown of how much nonprofit support came from federal versus other sources from out of state, future studies will have the information, Ellsworth said. Still, with total giving in Idaho failing to keep pace with inflation or with the sunsetting of COVID-19 funding, leaders in the nonprofit sector have reason to be concerned about the loss of federal funds, Ellsworth said.

The loss of funding would be especially devastating for smaller nonprofits with limited budgets and resources for whom every dollar counts, she said.

The resistance to federal funds, much of it from conservative lawmakers, has centered in part on concerns about the cost of administering and tracking federal grants that have strings attached. Some lawmakers also have alleged that educational nonprofits, for example, could use the money to push a “social justice curriculum.”

Despite this resistance, the public’s trust in mission-focused charities and nonprofits remains high at 82%, better than any time since before the start of COVID-19 pandemic. The figure, which the researchers based on 582 survey responses they received from Idahoans in every county of the state, outpaced respondents’ reported trust in foundations (76%), corporate philanthropy (60%), and individual philanthropy from high net-worth individuals (42%).

“It is likely that the public has noticed the ways that nonprofits filled gaps in essential services to help lessen the effects of the pandemic,” the authors wrote. “A supporting theme emerges from the data: the pandemic was an opportunity for nonprofits to step up, and in the public’s eye, the sector delivered.”

Other economic benefits of nonprofits mentioned in the report include the additional job creation generated by the sector’s purchase of goods and services, and the $116 million in state taxes that nonprofit employees pay each year.

The full 37-page report can be accessed on the organization’s website at https://www.idahononprofits.org/state-of-the-sector-report.html