Nonprofits Provide Essential Services, Deserve Support

By A. Scott Anderson

President and CEO, Zions Bank

When a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty, that officer’s spouse and children face a crushing and tragic personal loss. They also face the loss of a wage earner and the subsequent financial challenges that brings. That’s why I’m glad that wonderful nonprofit organizations, like the Utah 1033 Foundation and the Idaho Peace Officers Memorial Fund, exist to help devastated families with quick financial support to help them pay for immediate family needs, including the cost of a funeral and burial.

 

I have personally heard widows of law enforcement officers tearfully express appreciation for the financial support their young families received when their husbands were killed in the line of duty.

The Idaho Peace Officers Memorial Fund and the Utah 1033 Foundation are examples of the essential role that the nonprofit sector plays in our communities. I am a businessperson dedicated to our free enterprise, profit-making economic system. But I greatly appreciate and support the nonprofit sector, which we sometimes take for granted. Nonprofits provide crucial humanitarian, cultural and educational services, benefiting all for-profit businesses. We enjoy superior quality of life thanks to the nonprofits in our states.

Government would have to be much bigger, and taxes much higher, if it had to provide all the services offered by nonprofit organizations. It’s difficult to quantify the value, both in financial terms and societal benefit, that churches, charitable organizations, and cultural and arts groups, contribute to our success and quality of life.

We need to support the nonprofit sector. Reputable nonprofits deserve both volunteer help and financial backing by individuals, businesses and sometimes the government.

Per the Idaho Nonprofit Center, there are some 5,500 registered charitable nonprofit organizations in Idaho. The center is an “association of forward-looking nonprofit leaders who come together to share knowledge, solve problems, pursue common interests and serve the public good.”

The Utah Nonprofits Association, estimates that Utah has about 3,500 nonprofits with 501(c)3 status, and some 5,500 with other nonprofit status. It was estimated a few years ago that Utah nonprofits employ 51,000 people and involve 880,000 volunteers providing 161.9 million hours of service. Nonprofits generate some $3.3 billion in estimated economic impact and hold assets of $13 billion.

Nonprofits cover a gamut of needs such as those in the arts, children’s services, education, health, human services, community partner supporters, international affairs, religion, and more.

Nonprofits make our communities better places to live in a variety of ways:

By enhancing our economy. Business relocation experts say one of the first questions a CEO asks relates to quality of life. Business leaders want to locate where citizens are concerned about the environment, arts, culture, social services and quality schools — all things assisted by nonprofits.

By leveraging tax dollars. Many nonprofits perform services that would otherwise have to be offered by government, in whole or in part. As a result, more services are provided at less cost to taxpayers.

By providing community identity and opportunities for volunteer service.

By providing visionary leadership. Nonprofits like chambers of commerce, think tanks, policy institutes and conservation groups look to the future and help us learn how we can make our states a better place for future generations.

By serving those who need help the most. Nonprofits operate food banks and homeless shelters, along with addiction recovery and mental health programs, providing immeasurable help to those most vulnerable in society.

Many people have noted that the secret sauce is our willingness to collaborate and work together. Both states are among the nation’s leaders in volunteerism. Having a vibrant nonprofit sector requires a robust three-way partnership between businesses, government and nonprofits.

Businesses that get involved with nonprofits will have more engaged employees, a better sense of mission, and will enjoy networking opportunities and higher visibility in the community.

Government involvement is also important. Targeted, modest, tax dollar investments can provide seed money that is multiplied many times over. The charitable tax deduction for nonprofit giving is crucial to nonprofit revenue. States that have reduced or eliminated the deduction have seen charitable giving decline significantly.

So how do you get involved? Contact the Utah Nonprofits Association or the Idaho Nonprofit Center. Or call your local United Way organization, which partners with numerous nonprofits. Volunteers and contributions are always being sought.

We have wonderful, dedicated, capable people working very hard in the nonprofit sector. Outcomes are being measured and progress is being made, but each of us needs to do more.