They may not seem like money-magnets, but a new study finds that Pikes Peak region nonprofits comprise the seventh-largest industry locally, with $3.1 billion in annual revenues.
Conducted by the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Summit Economics LLC, with help from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs School of Public Affairs, "Nonprofits Matter – An Economic Force for a Vibrant Community" estimates that local nonprofits have a $1.7 billion economic impact, and help taxpayers avoid higher bills in various arenas.
Those strengths have not gone unnoticed.
"We definitely are paying attention to the local nonprofits," says Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance vice president of business development John Wilson. He adds, "We have some world-renowned organizations here and we're very excited about them."
According to the research:
• The Pikes Peak area, defined for this study as El Paso and Teller counties, is home to 1,275 nonprofits, excluding religious congregations, nonprofits so small they did not register with the IRS, and nonprofits that operate within the area but are based elsewhere.
• Nonprofit expenditures per capita were $4,723 in 2011. Though 84 percent of local nonprofits are "small," with annual budgets under a million dollars, 64 percent of 2011 spending came from the area's 15 largest nonprofits.
• Nearly a third of all spending went to employees' paychecks. In 2011, an estimated 16,800 locals were employed by a nonprofit.
• Nonprofit employees and visitors, and sometimes even the nonprofits themselves, pay about $91.7 million in state and local income, sales and property taxes annually.
In addition to the general financial analysis, CNE Executive Director Dave Somers says the study also wanted to look at "social return on investment" — how much good nonprofits do. In some cases, the study was able to translate that seemingly unscientific impact into numbers.
"Organizations like Urban Peak spend approximately $5,000 a year to shelter and assist homeless teens, who otherwise might cost our community more than $50,000 a year if they ended up in corrections or a residential treatment program," he writes in an e-mail to the Independent. "In 2011 Discover Goodwill helped 4,740 citizens find jobs in our community with projected annual earnings of more than $57 million. Sixty-five percent of Blue Star Recyclers' workforce is developmentally disabled, and their social return on investment is nearly $20,000 per worker per year in terms of reduced taxpayer support. Pikes Peak Therapeutic Riding Center has seen a 62-percent reduction in suicide risk among its PTSD clients."
Another example is Homeward Pikes Peak, thought to save taxpayers as much as $1.9 million a year by housing the homeless and thereby negating the need for police, fire, ambulance and emergency room services. Executive director Bob Holmes says he hopes the study will provide a fresh perspective.
"Part of my biggest frustration is with right-wing conservatives who decry the spending of any money for social services," Holmes says. "That's very narrow, and it's not well thought-out.
"I tell funders I'm not looking for charity, I'm looking for an investment in the community."
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