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New Report Highlights the Importance of Springfield's Nonprofit Organizations

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From feeding the hungry to protecting the area’s water quality, nonprofit organizations in Springfield play a large role in improving lives and shaping our community. But exactly how big of an impact do nonprofits have? That’s the question Drury University’s Nonprofit Impact Report tries to answer, as KSMU’s Julie Greene reports.

“What happens to the nonprofits affects the entire city: economically, socially, our social welfare. We are critical to this city. We are very important, and I believe when you talk about the City of Springfield, one of the things that makes Springfield and southwest Missouri a great place to live are the nonprofits,” said Prater.

Dan Prater, director of Drury University’s Center for Nonprofit Communication and primary author of the report, addressed a crowd of around 120 Wednesday inside the Hammons School of Architecture auditorium.

The Nonprofit Impact Report contains information on more than 1,500 local nonprofits, making it the first of its kind to be conducted in our area.

Nearly 500 nonprofits employ around 39,000 people locally, while more than 300 other organizations have no paid staff and rely exclusively on volunteers.

The 44-page study produced over an eighteen-month period found that in Springfield, individuals working in nonprofit organizations account for more than 50 percent of all Springfield private employment, with the majority of these individuals working in health care and human services. This percentage outranks both the State of Missouri and national average, which is around 10 percent.

The study also showed that nonprofits are essential to Springfield’s financial health, producing almost 20 percent of the city’s total revenue, around $4 billion a year.

Dr. Sarah Smith, special advisor to the Center of Nonprofit Communication as well as one of the authors of the report, noted that one of the more particularly surprising figures is that just 10 organizations mainly in health and education account for more than 80 percent of revenue.  

“There are a lot of organizations, more than half, that have less than $150, 000, so they’re having to make due with very little resources, so that’s a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity for growth. It lets us know where we can put more resources where there’s more room to do more in the community,” Smith said.

Additionally, the Community Focus 2013 guide identified red flag areas addressing our region’s most pressing issues surrounding poverty, insufficient funding, concerns for children and youth and lack of investment in prevention efforts. According to the report, these issues are “not adequately addressed” because of a lack of funding and because only a small percentage of nonprofits focus its main mission on these issues.

“When we look at the density of nonprofits, Springfield is about average or a little bit below average in terms of the number of nonprofits per 1,000 residents, so we have a lot of organizations, but again, there’s room for growth in terms of organizations that we have doing more and maybe addressing issues that aren’t currently being addressed,” Smith said.

The report states that in order for nonprofits to succeed, strong support is needed from the public sector and from local for-profit businesses. That can come in the form of free or low-cost office space, allowing workers time off to volunteer, and providing speaking opportunities for nonprofit employees at company meetings.

The full report is to be published online within a week.

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.