Letter to the Editor by Suzanne Hazlett

December 24, 2014


A nonprofit is in fact an incorporated business that can be quite profitable, though the funds generated in excess of the operating expenses must be used to further the organization’s purposes—whether they are charitable, literary, artistic, scientific, educational or religious. The key difference between nonprofit organizations and for-profit enterprises is that nonprofits have two bottom lines: a social objective and a financial one. While tax-exempt organizations, by definition, include private family foundations, fraternal organizations and civic leagues, most of us think specifically of  public charities when we refer to nonprofits. To be tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for public charitable purposes. In exchange for tax exemptions for qualifying nonprofits and tax deductions for their contributors, 501(c)(3)  organizations provide an array of essential services and value to the community.

Nonprofits are so entwined in our own community that it may be easy to overlook the impact they have on daily life. Consider those organizations and programs with which you come into regular contact: arts educational events, child and adult care centers, basic services for those in need, youth centers, sports programs, healthcare services and many others that contribute—often quietly—to improving our quality of life. From a purely dollars and cents perspective, the nonprofit sector in the U.S. contributed an estimated $887 billion to the economy in 2012, representing more than 5 percent of  the country’s gross domestic product (a  measurement of  goods and services produced and delivered within the nation’s borders). Most nonprofits are small, with annual expenses of less than $500,000. Eighty percent of 501(c) (3) nonprofits carry out their missions with annual budgets  below $100,000, while two-thirds of the organizations make do with less than $25,000. Last year, total private donations to U.S. nonprofits from individuals, foundations and businesses totaled more than $335 billion. Donors are motivated to make financial contributions for many rea- sons: doing so can provide one with a sense of purpose; helping individuals and families meet basic needs does in fact make our world a better place; furthering a cause or program that aligns with one’s own personal values can be fulfilling; as well, society repays a contributor with a tax deduction for most charitable donations.

Those individuals who are engaged in or support non- profit works know how essential financial revenues and contributions are to an organization’s viability. Another valuable asset that provides substantial leverage of finite resources is the volunteer. More than 25 percent of American adults volunteered with a charitable organization in 2013.

The value of volunteers extends beyond the benefit to a single organization. By attracting the support of volunteers, nonprofits foster community engagement, civic participation and   leadership development and promote a community’s cultural values.

Volunteers – by contributing their time and professional, academic and life experiences – strengthen and add to the community’s social capital.

Collectively, we have the ability to make a difference.


Suzanne Hazlett
President / Co-Founder
Wood River Valley Studio Tour, Inc.