Stimulate the Economy by Investing in Nonprofit Organizations

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Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Marshall Peter and Cheryl O'Neill For The Register-Guard

As America's financial situation has worsened, a variety of strategies for stimulating the economy have emerged - including protecting financial and other industries, extending unemployment benefits, stemming the tide of foreclosures and investing in major infrastructure projects.

These efforts are intended to create and maintain jobs, "get money moving again," stabilize housing markets, and, (because they are funded by federal dollars) produce equitable and lasting public benefit. They are all worthwhile.

Surprisingly overlooked in current proposals are investments in the nation's nonprofit human services agencies. These vital community organizations are extremely well-positioned to quickly satisfy the broad goals associated with current and planned stimulus efforts.

Human service nonprofits are flexible, nimble and designed to respond rapidly to funding changes. American nonprofits employ more than 9 percent of the nation's work force - more than all of the employees working for the finance, insurance and real estate sectors combined.

Unlike infrastructure projects, which are often complex and take time to get under way, nonprofits can begin injecting money into local economies tomorrow. Social service agencies always have work that desperately needs to be done and can quickly recruit, hire, train and put people to work. Also, a significant percentage of nonprofit employees are women and mothers, creating an opportunity for gender equity in stimulus efforts.

Beyond creating new jobs, nonprofits urgently need help to maintain current employees in critical jobs. As local state and national budgets have contracted, human service agencies have begun to eliminate positions - leading to increased unemployment and the dismantling of highly effective programs that have taken years to create and will be hard to rebuild.

Nonprofit organizations pump money into local economies.

For example, last fiscal year alone, Womenspace and Direction Service injected more than $3 million into the businesses of Lane County. In Oregon, 7,150 nonprofits are estimated to employ 141,000 Oregonians, adding $4.6 billion in wages to the state's economy.

The National Center for Charitable Statistics estimates that the nonprofit sector of the U.S. economy has annual gross receipts of nearly $2.1 trillion. This is nearly 18 percent of the total 2005 gross domestic product.

All of this money goes right to work. …