By Joy Jordan
The power of individual nonprofit organizations can be seen in their impact on individual lives. The power of the nonprofit sector as a whole can be seen in its impact on the overall economy.
Charitable organizations are a vitally important element of a successful and healthy economy. If the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world, according to GDP data compiled by the World Bank. In the United States, the nonprofit sector contributed $878 billion to the economy in 2012, or about 5.4 percent of our nation’s GDP, per the National Council of Nonprofits.
In addition to the economic activity encouraged by nonprofits and the countless dollars that nonprofits save governments through their efficient service delivery, nonprofits are also one of the greatest sources of employment across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nonprofit sector employs 11.4 million people – that’s 10.2 percent of the American workforce.
In Massachusetts, nonprofit employment accounts for 17.7 percent of all jobs. Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statics reports 529,538 nonprofit jobs in Massachusetts at the end of 2015. Those jobs produce significant wages for nonprofit workers – well over $30 billion in 2015. Those wages, in turn, generate billions of dollars in tax revenues for state, federal, and local governments, as well as the economic growth resulting from associated spending.
The Massachusetts nonprofit sector is exceptionally strong. According to the BLS study, Massachusetts is ranked 6th from the top of all states in the U.S.
While many think of nonprofit organizations as being run solely by volunteers, many are actual business organizations that employ staffers and help stabilize the economy. In fact, nonprofits often buck other economic hiring trends and maintain workforces during recessionary periods.
The true impact of nonprofit organizations are thus twofold: they improve the lives of those individuals and families they serve, and they improve the overall economy and communities in which they operate.
While there are countless nonprofits organizations of all sizes in our state and in our region, many are small endeavors or lack the skilled expertise to fully maximize their impact.
One organization that has taken an aggregate approach to helping the community is The Cape Cod Foundation, based in Yarmouth.
“Quite simply, the mission of The Cape Cod Fountain is to improve the quality of life on Cape Cod,” says Kristin O’Malley, President and CEO of The Cape Cod Foundation. “We do this by working with donors to establish funds, in most cases permanent endowment funds, that benefit a wide variety of local organizations; using our community knowledge to serve as a connector between resources and opportunities in the community; and serving as an advocate and source of support for the Cape Cod nonprofit community to help strategically expand impact.”
The Cape Cod Foundation helps organizations make best use of their services through management tools and fund growth.
“We will be entering our 29th year in 2018,” notes O’Malley. “Since our inception, we have distributed more than $60 million back into the community in the form of grants and scholarships. We manage over 300 individual funds with assets totaling more than $62 million.”
There are tremendous benefits to businesses, donors, and nonprofits from being aligned with The Cape Cod Foundation, making it much simpler to donate, support, and grow.
“We make giving easy,” says O’Malley. “We often hear, especially from our business partners, that they want to be philanthropic, but they are so busy running their businesses, that it is hard to find the time to respond to all of the requests and to develop a strategy around their giving. We help with all of that. In addition to providing the administrative support, we also use our 28 years of grantmaking expertise and philanthropic advising to help donors clarify their giving strategy. They can focus their time and energy on where they want to give, and we can help with making it happen.
“We also act as the middle man, which enables donors to give anonymously if they choose and/or also puts us in the position of mediating requests and researching information if they do not have the time or desire to do that. Donors who partner with the Foundation benefit from economies of scale with accessing our various tools and resources and because we have over $45 million in our investment pool, donors benefit from a higher investment return and access to different investment strategies than they may have on their own.”
It’s especially important for businesses to be involved in philanthropy. Not only does it provide excellent branding and name recognition for businesses who donate locally and support community organizations, but as noted, it allows them to participate in a strong sector of the economy.
“If you look at it strictly from a financial standpoint, it’s good for the bottom line and public image,” O’Malley points out. “But we know our local businesses are looking much further than that when they are investing in the community. They know that our local nonprofit organizations are providing critical services and programs to all facets of our community, including their employees. It’s really a symbiotic relationship where we are all stronger because of our work together. There is a lot of research that has proven that promoting and providing employees with meaningful volunteer opportunities helps to attract top talent and to engage, develop, and retain employees. We are so fortunate on Cape Cod to have so many amazing businesses that have embedded philanthropy into their organizational cultures.”
As an organization that works closely with such a variety of nonprofit organizations in our community, The Cape Cod Foundation is ideally poised to offer the wide view on the greatest needs here. In short, there is much need and most of it is interrelated.
“There are many needs, and as a funding organization that supports so many aspects of our community, we believe they are all great and all interconnected,” says O’Malley. These include housing, workforce development, healthy aging, positive youth development, protecting and preserving our environment, and promoting arts and cultural experiences, just to name a few.
The Cape Cod Foundation, now in its 28th year, has done much reflecting about how far the organization has come, and where it hopes to go in the future.
“At The Cape Cod Foundation, we used our 25th anniversary in 2014 as an opportunity to celebrate our first 25 years, but to also chart our next 25 and to think about how we could be a more strategic partner for Cape Cod. Our resulting priorities from this intensive process focus on supporting and facilitating long-term solutions to some of our community’s greatest needs. As an organization built on endowment, our resources are here for the long-term, and so our focus on solutions needs to be as well.”
Just as many businesses periodically reevaluate their mission and goals, and their execution of those, nonprofit organizations should do the same.
“In addition,” says O’Malley, “we realized that, as important as WHAT we are funding is HOW we are funding, and so we are taking a very active, verbal position about the importance of providing capacity-building support to our local organizations and making sure we are giving them the tools and resources they need to expand their impact, things like technology, professional development, infrastructure, things that have not traditionally been exciting for funders, but that are essential for our organizations to not only survive, but to thrive.”
This includes financial resources, of course, but also other types of structural support and development training that will allow the organizations to better utilize funding and operate more efficiently.
“We want to invest in programs when we know that the organization has the capacity that they need to be able to fully implement that program. We also know that strong leadership is essential. That is why we facilitated a ninefunder collaborative to bring Tufts University’s Institute for Nonprofit Practice program to Cape Cod for nonprofit leaders. We graduated 16 local leaders in 2017, and another 16 are currently in the program, slated to graduate in May 2018. Without strong leadership, even the best organizations cannot excel.”
Just as for-profit firms need strong leadership and clear goals, so do nonprofit organizations.
And The Cape Cod Foundation is here to help.
While many speak of giving back, The Cape Cod Foundation is living it, and making it easier for more people and groups in our region to do the same.
When it comes to community involvement, O’Malley emphasizes that anyone can be a philanthropist.
“We often associate the word ‘philanthropy’ with money, but it actually means goodwill to other members of the human race. So, uncover your passion and then discover the right role for you to be a philanthropist! Every hour, every dollar, every ounce of caring makes a difference!”
How businesses can support community organizations
Kristin O’Malley, President and CEO of The Cape Cod Foundation, offers some tips on ways local businesses can best get involved in giving back in their communities:
“Of course, financial resources are always helpful! Also, many organizations thrive because of their volunteers. Organizations are always looking for volunteers to assist, either with short-term or ongoing projects and programs. Volunteering has so many benefits, to the organizations and to the volunteers! We have a great online resource in our community, Cape Cod Volunteers, run by the Cape and Islands United Way, that matches organizational needs and volunteer interests. And, simply helping to spread the word about the great work being done by the organizations here is a huge help! Many of us nonprofit organizations suffer from being “the best-kept secret,” and we don’t have the resources to invest in extensive marketing and outreach, so we rely on our friends and supporters to help be ambassadors for us.”
How can individuals make decisions about where and how to provide philanthropic support?
While The Cape Cod Foundation works closely with many business and nonprofit organizations to link them and connect funding opportunities, they also serve individuals who wish to donate time or funds. Foundation President and CEO Kristin O’Malley shares these pointers for people looking to increase their philanthropy:
“Our door is always open, and we are here to provide advice!
“First, find your passion and then look for organizations that align with that. We find that sometimes donors realize that their giving does not always align with their values. We encourage people to do an assessment of the things that are important to them, and then make sure the causes they support align with those values. It seems pretty logical, but you would be surprised at how often people realize there is a disconnect.
“The good news is that there is a lot of information available online, so it is pretty easy to do research. As one of our recent efforts, we created CONNECT Cape Cod, connectcapecod.org, where users can map data and resources to see who is doing what where, as well as get information about some of the regional collaboratives working on a variety of issues. Talk to others that are involved with organizations to learn more. This may seem really basic, but just ask the organization what it is that they need, and then keep your options open for how you can be engaged.”