26 , 2003
State's Non-Profit Sector Shows its 'Mighty' Power
By Susie Steckner
Arizona's non-profit sector is a powerful economic engine that pumps billions of dollars into the state,
fills critical community needs, boosts education and enriches lives daily, according to a report unveiled
"Arizona's Nonprofit Sector: The Spirit of Arizona" shines a spotlight on the state's nearly 19,000
non-profit groups to demonstrate the impact that non-profit organizations exert on the state's economic
well-being and everyday life.
The report considers the entire non-profit sector, from Phoenix's Banner Health, a hospital operator,
to Prescott's Sharlot Hall Museum to Mesa's Save the Family, an agency for homeless families, to Tucson's
Black Chamber of Commerce.
"We are mighty, we are diverse, we are out there doing it all," said the report's author, Tim Delaney,
founder of the Center for Leadership, Ethics & Public Service in Phoenix.
"The Spirit of Arizona" was released at a forum in Phoenix hosted by Make A Difference, a non-profit
group that links volunteers with volunteer jobs. The Arizona Republic was one of the event sponsors.
Phoenix Vice Mayor Greg Stanton, who is active in local non-profit organizations, noted during a speech
the vital role non-profit organizations play in the city. He said Phoenix has relationships with 60
non-profit groups that provide housing, education and other programs.
"Too many people view non-profits as charities," he said. "We view them as our partners."
The report was commissioned by the Arizona Community Foundation in Phoenix, an umbrella organization of
700 charitable funds. It draws on data from 1997 to 2003, with information from government agencies,
advocacy groups and Arizona State University's Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Management.
Though there are thousands of non-profit groups registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission,
the report shows about 19,000 are operating. Of those, about 11,500 have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, or
Roughly 1,500 non-profit groups are created each year; in the first six months of 2003, about
1,000 were launched.
The report includes 3,300 religious congregations in the non-profit sector. But Delaney said the
number is difficult to pinpoint because of fewer government reporting requirements for religious groups.
The report aims to show what would happen without such non-profits. Among the considerations:
- Taxpayers would assume a great burden if government took over services provided by non-profit groups,
such as health care, child care or blood-donation operations.
- The economy would take a hit. Non-profit groups with tax-exempt status spent nearly $10 billion last
year; non-profit groups overall paid more than 105,000 employees a combined $2.6 billion in 1997,
the most recent year for which such statistics are available.
- The community would lose potential leaders and innovators. Non-profit groups cultivate leaders through
youth programs, volunteer jobs and boards of directors. In fact, the purpose of one non-profit organization,
Valley Leadership, is to develop leaders.
As for innovation, the report notes that the world's first food bank, St. Mary's, was founded in
Phoenix by John van Hengel. His efforts launched the movement worldwide.
The report comes at a challenging time for many organizations, which have seen declines in donations
and government funding. What's more, human service organizations have seen increased needs from residents
hit hard by a soft economy.
The report also comes as some community leaders are working to form a statewide association for
non-profit organizations, following what many other states have done to strengthen the sector and raise
Forum speakers called on businesses and government to take a larger role in helping non-profit groups,
financially and otherwise. They also encouraged non-profits to help themselves by banding together with
such an association.