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Non-profits as important to community as small businesses

Jeff Dunn
Thursday, Oct 3, 2013

We all know that small local business is a vital part of any community, particularly ours, with jobs and economic impact. But our value extends beyond the economic. We get involved in the community through volunteer work and financial support to non-profit organizations.

Studies have shown that locally owned businesses provide greater support to non- profits than chain or non-locally owned businesses. Not only must we do all we can to ensure small local business survives and thrives, we also must ensure that our local non-profits do the same.

Though non-profits aren’t businesses in the traditional sense, they provide a tremendously important economic and social function in our community.

They help feed the hungry, train and educate mentally challenged children and adults, protect abused women, steer wayward teens toward a better path and so on. The list is endless of the non-profits that enrich our community.

These organizations make their money largely through our generosity either through direct donations or buying whatever it is they are selling.

Non-profits are major employers, too. That sector employs close to 11 million people across the country, the third largest sector behind retail and manufacturing.

Moreover, the mission of some non- profits is employing people who may not be able to find a job otherwise. Take Goodwill as an example. It employs people with mental and physical disabilities who haven’t been able to secure a private sector job.

On a national scale, there are 1.4 million or so non-profits, making up 8 percent of our gross national product (GNP). Some 80 million people volunteer and the non-profits draw billions of donations each year.

Non-profits suffered during the recession like everyone did. But donations are rising again as the economy slowly recovers, according to a report by non-profit consulting firm Blackbaud.

Interestingly, donations to small non- profits grew more last year than donations to large- and medium-sized non-profits. The Blackbaud report showed that giving to small non-profits increased 7.3 percent over 2011, compared to 2.7 percent for medium ones and just 0.3 percent for large ones.

So imagine small, local business supporting small, local non-profits. That certainly is a nice recipe for helping sustain a community. There’s no telling how many non-profits we have in the Cookeville and Upper Cumberland area. But surely, there’s one or two that could use your time and financial support.

Jeff Dunn is the owner of Express Signs-N-More in Cookeville. He can be reached at (931) 520-4007 or

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