Florida’s Leading Foundations Join to Help Chart Florida’s Future

study analyzes enormous contributions of nonprofit sector

TALLAHASSEE, FLA. – Nonprofits are Florida’s sixth-largest employer, a major contributor to Florida’s economy and wealth, a magnet for volunteerism and a laboratory for innovative solutions to societal problems. As such, they have a role to play in concert with government and business in shaping public policy in the state.

That’s the message seven of the state’s leading grant-making foundations delivered Wednesday in announcing the formation of the Florida Philanthropic Network as a strong voice for the state’s nonprofit sector. The Network will work to:

  • Organize and promote philanthropy in the state;
  • Create a dialogue among nonprofits, business and government; and
  • Promote informed decision-making on critical public policy issues by commissioning independent research.

The Network highlighted a new study commissioned by the Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center at Rollins College in Winter Park and funded by the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation — that documents the enormous contributions of the state’s nonprofit sector.

Dr. Rita Bornstein, president of Rollins College, said the data marshaled in the study makes a compelling case for the inclusion of the nonprofit sector with government and business in planning and making public policy.

“The aftermath of the September 11 tragedy graphically illustrates how much our society depends on nonprofits to provide essential services, especially during periods of crisis,” Dr. Bornstein said. “It clearly demonstrates that government and business must collaborate with nonprofits at the local, state, and national levels to formulate public policies that ensure our readiness to respond effectively to human need during ordinary as well as tragic times.”

The study — “Economic Contribution of Florida Nonprofit Organizations: A Resource for the Public Good” — shows that Florida’s nonprofit organizations:

  • Number more than 50,000.
  • Directly employ approximately 430,000 people and indirectly generate an additional 360,000 jobs.
  • Comprise the state’s sixth largest source of employment among all industry sectors.
  • Generate more than $61 billion in total economic activity and more than $22 billion in total personal income.
  • Spur on 88 million hours of volunteer time – equal to the work of 42,000 full-time employees.

The Florida Philanthropic Network welcomed the study’s findings and embraced its recommendation that nonprofits should have a seat at the table of policy-making.

“With the many challenges that Florida faces, including rising immigration and poverty, foundations can be a positive influence in research and implementation of new ideas and solutions,” said Joanne Lighter, chair of the Florida Philanthropic Network and chief executive officer of Clearwater-based Allegany Franciscan Foundation. “These foundations support exceptional work, have access to some of the best minds in the country and are willing to wrestle with tough issues.”

Dr. Bornstein and Lighter were joined at the news conference by David Odahowski, president of Winter Park-based Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation and vice chair of the Network; Ruth Shack, president of Miami-based Dade Community Foundation; Dr. Sherry Magill, president of Jacksonville-based Jessie Ball duPont Fund; Dr. Steven Marcus, president of Miami-based Health Foundation of South Florida; Hodding Carter III, president of Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Pamela A. Peters, executive director of the Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center at Rollins; and Alma Ayala, executive director of the Tampa-based Network. Palm Beach-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation also is a member of the Network.

In the wake of September 11, there is a great expectation that nonprofits will save the day, Odahowski said. And while nonprofits have a lot to offer, government must realize the limitations of the nonprofit sector and work to achieve a healthy balance.

“Expect too little from us, and you are missing an opportunity,” said Odahowski. “Expect too much, and Florida’s citizens will suffer.”

The coalition of grant makers also cautioned that nonprofits cannot take the place of government.

“Understanding philanthropy and its scope is critical to developing effective responses to pressing public issues,” said Ruth Shack, president of the Dade Community Foundation. “And while the nonprofit sector attracts lots of volunteer hours and dollars, it never will be enough to provide an adequate safety net for Floridians in need.”

By way of perspective, Florida’s largest foundation, the Knight Foundation, has a $1.9 billion endowment — less than half the size of the Miami-Dade School System’s annual budget. That $1.9 billion endowment allows the Knight Foundation to fund $100 million a year in grants nationwide — making its contributions a mere footnote on Miami-Dade’s budget.

“If Florida’s foundations spent every penny of their endowments, they would all be gone in a year and a half, but Florida’s pressing needs would continue,” said Hodding Carter, president of Knight Foundation. Indeed, part of the Network’s mission is to promote and encourage giving in the state, which according to Newtithing Group, ranks 49th nationally in individual giving.

Equipped with the Rollins College study, which will be researched and published annually, the Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Center and the Florida Philanthropic Network will join forces to educate Florida’s legislative and business leaders and the general public about the nonprofit sector’s impact on the state’s economy.

“This study makes clear that the well-being of Florida’s citizens depends on close communication and partnership among the private, public and nonprofit sectors,” said Peters, the Philanthropy Center’s executive director. “The Philanthropy Center and the Florida Philanthropic Network share a common goal to help facilitate such partnerships and to secure a place for the nonprofit sector, side by side with business and government, in the state’s planning and public policy-making arena.”