Report finds nonprofits making a big difference

Nonprofit organizations on the Lower Shore have a total economic impact of more than $695 million annually, provide needed services to residents and save money for taxpayers, according to a recently released study.

The study also noted that the nonprofits are operating in a region that lags behind the state in several key quality of life indicators, making the services they provide all the more crucial.

“For the very first time Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore has clear-cut facts about the regional impact created by nonprofits,” said Erica Joseph, President of the Community Foundation, one of the partners in the Lower Shore Nonprofit Economic and Social Impact Study.

“It is our hope that this quantitative data can be used for future community and nonprofit growth while demonstrating the important role nonprofits play in our economy and quality of life,” Joseph said.

The study provides a detailed look at how the nonprofit sector in Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties provides numerous services to the community in health care, human services, education, arts and culture.

It also outlines the need for those services because the Lower Shore falls below the state average in income, transportation, housing affordability, health and wellbeing, and education.

“Nonprofits establish themselves with the goal to help meet the needs of our community. They are all around us, but some people may not be aware of the direct impact (jobs) and indirect impact (economic well-being) nonprofits have,” said Kathryn Gordon, Deputy Director of Worcester County Economic Development. “This study showcases the impact these somewhat silent supporters really have.”

Key economic impact findings are:

  • The nonprofit sector supports over 9,200 jobs on the Lower Shore.
  • Lower Shore nonprofits contributed more than $379 million to the region’s economy through wages paid in 2017, equivalent to 14 percent of the region’s total wages.
  • Nonprofit employment on the Lower Shore grew by 29 percent between 2006 and 2017. As a result, the nonprofit share of total private employment in the region grew at an impressive 38.6 percent rate—well in excess of the state’s overall rate of 17.5 percent.
  • During the 2008 economic recession, nonprofit sector employment increased by 11 percent, while employment in the for-profit sector decreased

Community impact findings are:

  • Approximately one in three Lower Shore neighbors are served directly and indirectly by local nonprofits.
  • Nonprofits save taxpayers money. The per-person costs of nonprofit programs are nearly half those of comparable state-run public assistance programs.
  • Nonprofits improve quality of life. Services address a vast array of community needs, from critical services in healthcare and education to programs that increase access to the arts and environmental conservation.
  • Nonprofits partner with the government and private sector businesses to ensure our region is meeting local needs and challenges, while creating a strong and vibrant community.
  • Nonprofit events bring people together and generate revenue for local businesses. Nonprofit survey respondents reported a 232 percent ROI from fundraising events held in public venues in 2017. In 2018, the National Folk Festival drew 60,000-plus attendees to downtown Salisbury, leveraged more than 1,500 volunteer hours from 800-plus volunteers, and generated a total transactional impact of $18 million.

“Nonprofits are part of the heart and soul of our region. They are part of our social network, and part of our social fabric,” said Mike Dunn, President and CEO of theGreater Salisbury Committee, which partnered in the study. “Our region would not be as strong and viable as it is without the work of our nonprofits. Those who benefit from them, and those who work for them.”

The collaborative study used data collected from participating nonprofits and existing data from the IRS and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

The report was led by The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, The United Way of the Lower Eastern Shore, The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Tri-County Council, Worcester County Economic Development, Greater Salisbury Committee, in partnership with Maryland Nonprofits, Johns Hopkins, and BEACON at Salisbury University.

To read the full report, visit

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