Calculating the Value of Nonprofits

Giving is good business

Back Commentary Jul 1, 2012 By Winnie Comstock-Carlson

The equation is easy to understand: A weak economy equals challenging business conditions equals reduced corporate support for nonprofits. Understandable, yes, but terribly unfortunate — and, I’m convinced, not particularly good business.

I hardly need mention just how desperate nonprofits are right now. The sputtering economy, high unemployment and drastic government budget cuts have taken major tolls on organizations providing everything from preschool programs to higher education, food, shelter, art and music.

These same economic pressures plague companies and lead many to reduce or eliminate support for local and regional nonprofits. Others have never given at all.

Yet goodwill generated by philanthropy can increase customers’ awareness and interest in a business. Studies measuring the business value of charitable giving report that consumers with favorable impressions of a company’s philanthropy are three times more likely to be loyal customers.

Community support also helps create markets. Research shows, for example, that patrons of arts and entertainment organizations such as the Music Circus, B Street Theater and the Sacramento Ballet spend $3 in the surrounding businesses for every $1 they spend on event tickets.

There are human resource benefits as well. Knowing that an employer supports the community boosts employee pride and loyalty. Companies can also encourage staff development while giving back to the community.

Genentech collaborated with Solano Community College to develop a groundbreaking certificate program for students on the manufacturing side of biotechnology.

Likewise, the California Ski Association partners with Sierra College to teach the foundations of mechatronics (integrating electronics, mechanics and computer control) to ski lift technicians. Sutter Health links up with Los Rios Community College District to educate new nurses.

So, there are many ways — and many sound economic reasons — to sustain or even increase our support for nonprofits during downturns. I applaud the many organizations doing just that.

The Teichert family of companies, Roebbelen Contracting Inc., Five Star Bank and others sponsor and provide internships for students at Cristo Rey, the private high school helping young adults of limited means to get a high-quality secondary education. Vision Service Plan (VSP) continues its tradition of providing free annual eye exams and eyewear to children who otherwise could not afford them.

But there are many others who give little or nothing or who have greatly reduced their support in the wake of the recession. We need to remind ourselves of the incredible value these organizations provide to our community.

We owe nonprofits a great deal. We owe them our long-term financial and professional support. And we especially owe them the funding they require to stay alive and well during these difficult times.

Giving to our local and regional nonprofits is good business — and, just as important, it’s the right thing to do.

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