Even as someone who has spent their whole career in the charitable sector, it had never occurred to me just how much nonprofits touch every aspect of our lives as Idahoans. Previously, I had thought of the nonprofit sector as the mortar that fills the space between the bricks in our society. However, I think that analogy is backwards.
Nonprofits are the bricks themselves that great communities are built on. In short, these organizations are essential to our way of life in Idaho.
Have your children or grandchildren been on a field trip that sparked their interest or passion for something that they had not previously been exposed to? That’s a nonprofit.
Have you noticed as you stroll through Idaho’s historic Main Streets in communities across the state that things seem coordinated at a merchant level? Is there a clear invitation to participate in the economic and cultural life of the community? That’s a nonprofit.
Maybe you or a loved one has benefited from an organization that provides vital housing for a veteran suffering from PTSD and trying to rebuild their life. That’s a nonprofit.
Or maybe you’ve walked or ridden on an accessible trail and loved how well-linked and well-maintained they are with clear signage. That’s a nonprofit.
All these organizations are fundamental to our way of life in Idaho. Now, more than ever, we must recognize and value them as such.
Not only are nonprofits a key driver in what makes our local communities great places to live, but they are also a huge economic driver in our state. The sector directly provides employment and wages to over 65,000 Idahoans (about 10% of Idaho’s private sector workforce) and around $2.25 billion in annual wages are paid out by nonprofits.
So why is this all so important right now? Nonprofits have been on the front lines, navigating the pandemic. We have an historic opportunity to build systems and services in our communities across the state that ensures a better future for every Idahoan.
The American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) will pump over $5 billion into communities across our state. A portion of that funding — Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds — will be allocated at the discretion of local city and county governments. It is crucial that nonprofits in each region have equitable access to these funds to ensure that organizations statewide can continue addressing the housing shortage, food insecurity, child care, job training, mental health and much more.
Please ask your local elected officials to listen to the needs of the organizations that continue to serve your communities. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lift up the exemplary work of nonprofits, and your neighbors behind that work, in building the best possible future for our families and friends.
— Kevin Bailey is the CEO of the Idaho Nonprofit Center.