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About half of Idaho nonprofits say inflation is keeping them from meeting their community’s needs

Kevin Bailey is CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center
Idaho Nonprofit Center
Kevin Bailey is CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center

The Idaho nonprofit sector may be one of the most reliable economic barometers in the Gem State.

“Nonprofits employ over 67,000 Idahoans directly,” said Kevin Bailey, CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center.“That's more than the ag industry. It's more than construction. It's the fifth largest private sector employer in our state.”

The good news is that giving to Idaho nonprofits is up. That said, inflation is squeezing those investments. And according to Bailey, “the real gains in giving are essentially nil,” adding that, “those gifts are not going as far.”

Bailey visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to share details of the INC’s just published “State of the Sector” report, which offers a mixed diagnosis of one of the state’s most important sectors.

“About half said they were, at current capacity, unable to meet the full demand of public needs…, meaning they don't have enough staff currently, or they don't have enough scale to meet the full demand on their services.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. A U.S. recession is effectively certain in the next 12 months’ and that is the latest Bloomberg economics model. It is no longer a matter of if but when, according to many analysts. And this latest model says that the chance of a downturn by this time next year is pretty close to 100%. So much of that conversation regarding the analyses has been clinical.  This morning. Let's make it personal. Kevin Bailey is the CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. And it's important to remind ourselves that non-profits are ahead of the curve when it comes to the economy, good and bad. They tell us so much. Simply put, Idaho runs on non-profits. So let's welcome Kevin Bailey back to this program. Mr. Bailey, good morning.

KEVIN BAILEY: Morning, George. Thanks for having me.

PRENTICE: We're particularly interested in your organization's “State of the Sector.” More than a white paper. It can be a road map, if you will. And by the way, is that an annual analysis and publication?

BAILEY: We put that out every two years.

PRENTICE: Every two years. I'm guessing that nonprofits are a target for that, but I have to assume that the analysis is also a tool for everyone from, well, the head of state government all the way down to the smallest of businesses?

BAILEY: Yeah, absolutely right. That's the purpose of that document, really. It's to drive our policy and advocacy work here at the nonprofit center, we really see ourselves as the voice of the nonprofit sector and champion championing the things and the needs that the sector has in order to be successful. And part of the way that we do that is to get this data in front of policymakers, elected officials, the governor's office, all the way down to city council members in various communities, and let them know the impact that nonprofits have on the quality of life in their local communities. So it's a really important tool for that.

PRENTICE: Can you remind our listeners of the economic influence that nonprofits bring to Idaho?

BAILEY: Yeah, a lot of people don't realize that nonprofits are a huge economic influence on our state's economy. Nonprofits employ over 67,000 Idahoans directly through those programs that deliver everything from Meals on Wheels to great arts performances, conservation trail associations, etc.. So in health care, of course, nonprofits employ a lot of Idahoans. That's more than the ag industry. It's more than construction. It's the fifth largest private sector in our state. So, a really important sector, really important industry. It also adds about 6% to our state's GSP, the Gross State Product, basically the economic output across the whole state. Nonprofits make up about 6% of that, so a significant, significant chunk of economic activity. And then the downstream effects from that that support jobs in other industries like I.T. and air and technology.

PRENTICE: But most nonprofits are small businesses, right? And that's the backbone of our overall workforce.

BAILEY: Yeah, absolutely. You know, without question, that's really our definition would absolutely be correct that there are small businesses. The average nonprofit in Idaho probably employs between five and 20 employees. Obviously, there's many nonprofits that are smaller than that that run on either one or two full time employees or even in some cases, all volunteers. So it's really important that nonprofits have the kinds of supports, both at a state level and at a federal level, just as small business where we have the Small Business Administration, for example, at a federal level, which really supports small business for profit businesses, we don't have anything like that for nonprofits, right? We really rely on, for example, our Center Idaho nonprofit center. We're a nonprofit ourselves to kind of do the work of lifting up the sector and supporting the needs of the sector. So more needs to be done for sure.

PRENTICE: What can you tell us about giving in Idaho… in support of nonprofits?

BAILEY: Yeah, well, giving continues to go up year over year. Our trends at a state level, we don't have state specific data. That data is not captured by the IRS. But there's a great report out through Giving USA that captures the national data. And Idaho is no exception. We follow the national trends in giving. So what we're continuing to see is giving go up year after year. However, this year we're really being pinched by inflation. So the real gains in giving are essentially nil for nonprofits as they fight through high inflation. And so those gifts are not going as far.. And so I think what we're telling a lot of our nonprofit members is having those conversations with higher level donors, corporate partners, and asking them to pass on and share the effects of inflation so that those gifts at a higher level continue to hopefully go up and cover the costs that are eating into some of those budgetary areas from inflation.

PRENTICE: So let's talk about getting and need and the challenges of the charitable sector. And well, you tell me their ability or inability to meet our needs, the community needs.

BAILEY: Yeah. We asked our nonprofits is part of this report are they able to meet all of the needs that they have, Essentially the number of calls they get for services, for example, can they meet those needs? And we've seen really in every community, especially around the housing crisis, that those waiting lists are huge when it comes to rental assistance, when it comes to rehousing, folks, transitional housing, that's a great example to give. And most nonprofits, about half said they were at current capacity, unable to meet the full demand of public needs that come through their door, meaning they don't have enough staff currently or they don't have enough scale to meet the full demand on their services.That's a really important point. I think what that means is we really need to figure out ways that we can help our nonprofits and our state and our local community scale up, whether that's through hiring more program staff to meet those needs, such as providing rental assistance or case management services and really help them meet the full, full demand. Our state's growing rapidly, as we all know, and with that, those waiting lists for vital services continue to be. High demand and nonprofits need more support financially in order to meet that full demand.

PRENTICE: Well, let's talk a little bit more about that, because what I've learned from you and your colleagues is that this is where nonprofits can double up or partner up when they're not necessarily duplicating their own mission…, but together, they can complete or possibly satisfy each other's mission.

BAILEY: Yeah, I think the future of nonprofit work really is in this sort of collective impact model. And what we're seeing in various communities around the state is is pockets of of some sectors, let's say the housing sector. That's a great example where you've got different agencies that meet different needs and they play different roles in getting folks into safe housing. So you've got people that do emergency shelter, you've got people that do transitional housing, you've got people that do veteran housing, family housing. And what they're doing is really working together on a coordinated system of care. And that helps scale everyone's effort. It helps tie those those referrals between organizations together. There's a great platform that launched this past year that we've been a part of helping promote. It's called Find Help Idaho dot org and let's find help Idaho dot org and what that is, it's an online one stop shop resource for any community member in any community in the state to say put in your zip code say I'm looking for a food pantry and it finds the available pantries in your neighborhood or I'm looking for rental assistance or whatever that need is. And it's a way that nonprofits can come together and support each other's mission, but also share referrals between agencies. Again, that sort of collective impact model, which I think is part of the future where the sector is going, we can do more together than we can alone.

PRENTICE: I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you about Idaho Gives. So is Idaho still on track for 2023?

BAILEY: Absolutely. We're looking forward to another great and successful year. Idaho gives. That will be May 1st through May 4th. So it's going to be a four day giving event again in 2023. So mark your calendars for the first week of May. That's a really important week for Idaho's nonprofits. It's a week that we're able to rally the causes of about 600 plus organizations and raise, you know, upwards of $3.6 - $3.7 million for those organizations. And it rallies more than anything, even more than the funds rallying, the support and the causes behind those organizations and letting the public know that nonprofits are here to stay. They're local. They serve your community, and they're part of what makes our communities run. We like to say around our office that Idaho runs on nonprofits and what makes our communities great places to live is in large part because of the mission and work that nonprofits do.

PRENTICE: It's no secret that I spent a good chunk of my professional adult life in and with Idaho nonprofits, particularly in servicing children who are in the shadow of life. And the first lesson I learned was… it is more about telling your story than it is about fundraising, because the funds usually follow.

BAILEY: Yeah, In fact, in this data sector report, we added a new element to the report. We had the Boise State University do a public poll of Idahoans across the state and asking them to really measure the trust that they have in Idaho's nonprofits. The measure of trust came back at about 84% of the public, which is a much higher level of trust that I don't have in nonprofits, even compared to other institutions, whether that's local government or other prominent institutions. And that told us something we asked donors to in that survey. What is the main driver of your in and far and away number one was people give because it's a cause or an issue they believe in. So what we've really done with that messaging is really try to communicate to our member nonprofits that donors are attracted to cause they're attracted to a larger picture. How is what you're doing fit in with the larger fabric of the big issue that you're trying to work on and solve? And that speaks to that collaboration and that kind of collective impact model and the sense that we can't just among many, but when we branch together with other likeminded organizations, we can accomplish a lot.

PRENTICE: Kevin Bailey is the CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center. And Kevin, for you and your colleagues, thank you for every day and for our purposes, thanks for giving us some time this morning.

BAILEY: Yeah, thank you very much, George. Appreciate it.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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