ASU Lodestar Center's report reveals impact of nonprofit organizations in Arizona

The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation released a report that details volunteerism statistics and financial information on the 20,000 charitable organizations in the state.

The website, Scope of the Arizona Nonprofit Sector, offers interactive charts and graphs to illustrate organizations’ expenses, revenues and economic effects they have on Arizona’s economy.

Karina Lungo, a management intern at the Lodestar Center, created the website. She said it's important for local residents to be educated on the economic influence of nonprofit organizations.

“It’s very interesting and sometimes eye-opening for a normal individual to see how much expenditures from nonprofits really contribute to Arizona,” she said.

Lungo said her team at the Lodestar Center was surprised by some of the information it discovered. For instance, the report found that 6 percent of total employment in the state comes from nonprofit organizations.

“Those are numbers that we’re sometimes not aware of,” she said. “It’s interesting to see how nonprofits are increasing in the percentage of employment, whereas the public and corporate sectors have decreased after the recession.”

The data provided by Scope of the Sector also includes information about volunteerism in the state. For example, this report found that 1.17 million residents volunteered in 2012. The estimated value of that labor is $3.4 billion.

Both nonprofit organizations and individuals can use this information to make informed decisions about their finances.

For example, a charitable group looking to transfer locations can learn about the assets and other financial information of similar nonprofit groups in the area and decide if it would be successful in that region.

Additionally, private citizens can use this website to learn about financial information from specific organizations and determine if they would like to contribute money or volunteer.

“Potential donors or volunteers can assess how big a nonprofit is, how long it has been operating, total contributions it makes — all of that is available for individuals,” Lungo said.

Pam Gaber is the CEO and founder of Gabriel’s Angels, a local group that offers pet therapy to Phoenix children who were exposed to or witnessed violence at home. She said her organization gives children the opportunity to break out of the cycles of violence in which they were born.

She said she uses the information provided by this website to make others aware of the impact the nonprofit sector has on communities.

“I always use those statistics to educate,” she said. “There’s a lot of misconception about the sector, so I use it as a way to educate my boards, my committee and others in nonprofits.”

She said most people she speaks to about the nonprofit organization sector do not realize that many charities and groups not only have volunteers but also paid employees.

Gabriel’s Angels employs 11 people and has 250 to 300 volunteers. However, Gaber said the organization cannot possibly help every child who would benefit from its aid.

“There’s much more need than we serve,” she said. “We serve about 13,500 kids a year here in Arizona. My guess is there’s 20,000 that need us.”

Information provided by Scope of the Sector exposes the disparity between a nonprofit organization's income and expenses. Individuals can donate to a struggling organization so that it continues to serve the community.

Stephanie La Loggia, manager of knowledge resources at the Lodestar Center, said nonprofit organizations have two primary functions: They either provide vital human services or work to solve problems.

“They make a huge difference for issues like hunger, education, animal rights and all kinds of human rights issues,” she said.

Additionally, La Loggia said nonprofit organizations are unique to Arizona, because they provide services without involvement with other interests.

“It’s important to any thriving society and democracy that there’s a space there for people to participate in our communities to make things better, that it's not the arm of the government or on the angle to make a profit,” she said.

The Scope of the Sector found the number of nonprofit groups in the state is growing. La Loggia said there are many reasons for this development, but one important factor is the changing culture surrounding nonprofit organizations.

“There’s this entrepreneurial spirit over the last few years where a lot more people have started nonprofits,” she said. “(They’re) finding new and innovative ways to provide services or solve problems.”

The next update to the Scope of the Sector is scheduled to be released during the summer.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @sharir55

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