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The Economic Impact of Philanthropy

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

When people think of economic impact, the mind usually races to large corporations and privately-held companies of the for-profit world. However, the philanthropic community is one of the unsung players in a healthy, robust economy.

Here in our hometown of Atlanta, for example, Atlanta Mission takes a person off the street every day of the year. Their mission is to solve homelessness by helping those in need find food, clothing and shelter and, perhaps most importantly, addressing the root causes that created the problem.

Nicholas House, another non-profit that works with homeless families, has a 95% success rate of keeping families from going back on the street. While major cities such as San Francisco and Seattle grapple with the dramatic increase of homelessness on their city streets, the number of homeless people in Atlanta is actually decreasing thanks to the good work of organizations like these.

What can one attribute to Georgia’s apparent success in addressing one of the society’s most chronic challenges?

Atlanta is home to a number of the nation’s largest charitable organizations, including The Task Force for Global Health and the National Christian Foundation. Both generated more than one billion in revenue last year, yet few Georgians have ever heard of either organization. In fact, the top five non-profit organizations headquartered in Georgia – which includes the American Cancer Society, MAP International, and CARE - generated more than $5 billion in revenue and employ approximately 1,000 Georgians. Other well-known, Georgia-based charitable organizations include Habitat for Humanity, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and the Carter Center, but there are thousands of smaller non-profit organizations in the State employing tens of thousands of people.

A second major player often unnoticed in Georgia’s economic health involves corporate and private foundations. The top three corporate-sponsored foundations in the state include Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and UPS, which cumulatively awarded more than $190 million in grants in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, alone. The top 10 private foundations (charitable foundations established by private citizens) awarded more than $200 million in grants. Altogether, the Top 10 corporate and private foundations in Georgia awarded more than $528 million to non-profit organizations; the Top 40 awarded more than $828 million.

The non-profit industry in Georgia provides thousands of fulltime jobs that often include excellent benefits that match or exceed their for-profit counterparts. These employers value hard work, education, and community engagement, and they support their local communities through educational institutions, health and human service providers, and individual support.

One example is TechBridge, which employs youth from socio-economically challenged communities. TechBridge teaches technical skills to young women and men, then helps them find jobs with partners in the non-profit industry. It’s a perfect match to improve the economic lives of individuals who may have been stuck in a cycle of generational poverty, while fulfilling the technology needs of their non-profit partners.

While for-profit businesses are the primary economic engine of the State, non-profits add a margin of excellence that makes Georgia a better place to live. When a Fortune 500 company looks at a location for a regional hub, their national or international headquarters, one of the things they evaluate is the quality of life in the city and the State. The differential between Georgia and others competitors for new business opportunities is often determined by health of a community, and much of that health is influenced by the non-profit sector.

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