Study: Nonprofits generate economy, jobs in Michigan

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Nonprofits in Michigan are employing as many people from the Thumb to Ann Arbor as the manufacturing industries are in southeast Michigan, according to a first-ever study released Thursday at a philanthropy conference in Detroit.

In U.S. congressional districts 9 through 14, more than 3,500 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations employ 246,000 people and generate $17.8 billion in economic activity per year, the report from Independent Sector found.

The report was presented at Our Common Future, which drew more than 1,000 nonprofit and foundation executives from 34 states and five countries. The event runs through Friday at the Detroit Marriott and is hosted by Independent Sector, the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Council of Michigan Foundations.

“On Capitol Hill, there’s some sentiment that we cost the government money because of the tax deduction,” said Daniel Cardinali, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based organization of nonprofits, foundations and corporations. “For a congressperson to know that in their district, 25,000 nonprofit jobs are generating so much impact, it’s a very different conversation.”

By the end of 2018, reports will be released on each of the nation’s 435 districts, an approach Cardinali said had not been used before.

Implan, the North Carolina firm that assembled the data from sources including the mandatory forms filed by nonprofits with the IRS, started with the Michigan districts because of the location of the conference. The districts studied cover Detroit, other parts of Wayne County, the entire Thumb and large parts of Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties.

The most 501(c)(3) jobs — 65, 171 — are in the oddly shaped 14th District, which includes Pontiac and Farmington Hills, swings east to the Grosse Pointes, and then veers south along the Detroit River. The 13th, including western Wayne County and much of Detroit, contains 60,379 jobs.

The report estimated state and local tax revenue associated with nonprofits at $949 million, and federal tax revenue at nearly $3.1 billion.

“It’s not just about creating good,” Cardinali said, “but about creating economic value.”

The agencies counted in the study include large institutions like Wayne State University and the DIA, and comparatively small agencies such as the Accounting Aid Society of Detroit.

“The number of nonprofit jobs in the region speaks to the need in the communities,” said Mary Ann Mohring, development and marketing manager of Accounting Aid. “It tells you how many people in the community need us.”