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New Study: Inland Empire Nonprofit Sector is Stretched

BY Anne Vally
Anne Vally
Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving
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| Mar 11, 2009

Growing Region Faces Challenges of Capacity, According to Study

SAN FRANCISCO — A new study funded by The James Irvine Foundation and conducted by The Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management, University of San Francisco documents the challenges and opportunities faced by the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector, which is straining to serve a highly diverse, rapidly growing region.

“The Inland Empire Nonprofit Sector: A Growing Region Faces the Challenges of Capacity” analyzes the two-county region’s nonprofit sector from 2000 to 2005. The report tracks nonprofit contributions to the region, compares it with the nonprofit sectors of other Southern California regions, and looks at nonprofit fiscal health. It also spotlights key issues and offers recommendations for strengthening the region’s nonprofit sector.

“Irvine commissioned this report on the capacity of the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector to contribute to greater understanding of the region’s readiness and capability to address the challenges it faces,” said James Canales, President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine Foundation.

“Leaders in the nonprofit, public and private sectors are invited to use this information to guide their strategies and actions, to build a case for greater support and, ultimately, to address the challenges facing the region. In doing so, valuable lessons may emerge that will help others beyond the region’s borders to tackle similar challenges in the coming years.”

The Inland Empire’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties and their subregions have distinct identities and resources, but due to similarities in geography and population growth, they share similar challenges, such as large distances between nonprofits and the most vulnerable populations. These persistent issues may serve as the basis for coordinated action.

The full report, including an executive summary highlighting findings and recommendations, is available at www.irvine.org . Key findings include:

1. Rapid growth stretches the region’s nonprofits. The populations of Riverside and San Bernardino counties grew by 26 percent and 15 percent, respectively, during the period studied. Nonprofit infrastructure is insufficient for the present population, let alone future growth. In 2005, there were 3,717 public charities in Riverside County and 3,849 in San Bernardino County. Sixty-seven percent of nonprofits in the region have revenues under $25,000. The Inland Empire has fewer nonprofits per capita than surrounding regions and California as a whole.

2. The region needs its nonprofit sector. Inland Empire nonprofit organizations deliver a wide range of services from health care to the arts. In aggregate, the region’s nonprofit sector spent $4 billion in 2005 and controlled almost $5.5 billion in assets. Nonprofits accounted for 5 percent of total employment in San Bernardino County and 3 percent in Riverside County. Growth in average wages within the nonprofit sector outstripped that in the private and public sectors.

3. Nonprofit capacity is not keeping up. Inland Empire nonprofits are not building the capacity necessary to meet the demands of a growing population. Nonprofit revenue in the Inland Empire is growing more slowly than in nearby Orange and Los Angeles counties. Riverside nonprofits grew their revenue by approximately 21 percent, compared with 27 percent revenue growth in Los Angeles. San Bernardino nonprofits, however, lost ground, with a 10 percent decline in revenue between 2000 and 2005. The region’s lack of nonprofit capacity is compounded by insufficient numbers of intermediary organizations — those that help support, strengthen and grow the sector.

4. Foundations are growing, but their capacity also falls short. With few exceptions, most foundations in the Inland Empire are small, and the numbers of people and nonprofits per foundation are dramatically higher than in surrounding counties and the state. Fifty-nine percent of the Inland Empire’s nonprofit sector funding comes from outside the region.

5. Nonprofits are distant from many who need services. The region is challenged by the location of its nonprofits, which are concentrated in metropolitan areas and distant from rural areas where need is great. In addition, there is a spatial mismatch between nonprofits that provide services to the most vulnerable populations — youth, seniors and the poor — and areas where these populations live in the greatest concentration. Vast regions with high need remain underserved.

Contact: Anne Vally, 415.777.2244,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it  

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Anne Vally was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2000 to 2013, last serving as a Senior Program Officer for Special Initiatives.

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