Texas Nonprofit Sector a True Economic Giant

December 12, 2010; Source: American-Statesman | Texas nonprofits not only do good for the people they serve, but they also contribute significantly to the economic fortunes of the state. According to a study by the Austin-based OneStar Foundation and Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit payrolls in 2008 topped $16.8 billion, exceeding wages paid to state government employees ($14.6 billion), those in the oil and gas extraction industry ($13.2 billion), and people who work for real estate and leasing companies ($8.1 billion).

The Austin American-Statesman says the findings are opening the eyes of people who only see nonprofits as “the warm and fuzzy aspects of charity: volunteerism and helping people,” when in reality they are “a financial force that shapes quality of life across the state.” Even Elizabeth Darling, CEO of OneStar, one of the backers of the study, said when she first saw the report “it blew me away.” Adds Darling: “The state’s nonprofits sector is so economically powerful, but it is almost dismissed because we don’t talk about it in those terms.”

Although the majority of Texas nonprofits are small operations—95 percent have annual revenues of less than $1 million—added together, they pack quite an economic wallop. Nonprofit leaders hope that by spotlighting the size and contributions of the sector to the state’s economy, and similarly making sure legislators know how much economic and social good these groups do, they can become a stronger voice in policy debates that, among other things, determine how much public funding they should receive.

“The key message here for us is that nonprofits are a key economic force in this state and any cuts to nonprofits or increases to fund services affects the economic engines,” said Barry Silverberg, CEO of the Texas Association of Nonprofits. The state that coined the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas,” needs a new mantra: “Don’t mess with Texas’ nonprofits.”—Bruce Trachtenberg