December 20, 2010; Source: The Portland Press Herald | At a time when public support for nonprofits is being dramatically cut due to crushing budget deficits in states and municipalities across the country, at least one group says that move is both wrong-headed and bad for the economy. A new report from the Maine Association of Nonprofits argues that nonprofits, which already save the state millions by providing community-based services and care, can help it save even more.

In addition to painting a picture of a nonprofit sector that is relatively healthy and one of the state’s largest employers, “Partners in Prosperity: The Maine Nonprofit Sector Impact,” highlights ways individual groups are helping it save money. For instance, the report points to Iris Network, a Portland-based nonprofit that provides vision rehabilitation services to 1,000 people annually. By serving people in their homes, at about $1,000 per client, it saves the state from millions of dollars in long-care costs, according to Jim Phipps, executive director.

“Having the state spend $1,000 to keep someone safe and home is a huge return on the investment,” he said. “Long-term care costs about $50,000 annually. So our services save the state 50 times its investment.”

The report also cites the $8.2 billion nonprofits contribute annually—or 17 percent of the gross product—to the state’s economy. The nonprofit sector employs one in seven workers in the state, second only to the retail industry. Many of those jobs are in nonprofit health care. With demand for those services to boom in coming years due to an aging population, the report says the state would be wise to continue to invest in nonprofit health that will help save Maine money in the long run.

A growing nonprofit health care sector also provides jobs that cannot be out-sourced, says Scott Schnapp, executive director of Maine Association of Nonprofits. He adds, “These are jobs we have to have in Maine.”—Bruce Trachtenberg