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Feb 7, 2022
Posted Under: Advocacy Nonprofit News President's letter

Our work in nonprofits is full of paradox. One of those is about how we grapple with data. On the one hand, we lack access to or capacity to get enough data to be as effective as we always strive to be, and on the other, we are awash in lots of data but again lack enough context or capacity to do anything meaningful with it. Something we often see in the latter case is that boards, especially, are bombarded with data but in essence have little information.

Over the years, we have committed not only to gathering data but also to providing education and support to turn that data into knowledge that can lead your organization to strategic action. The “data to action trajectory” is our gold standard. With every report we produce or share with you, we consider how we might energize as many as possible to take action. So with that goal in mind, I am thrilled to share our new report on the economic impact of Alaska’s nonprofits.

Every three years, we dig deeply into the sector with our partners at the Center for Economic Development. We pull data from the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the IRS, the U.S. Census and American Community Survey, and our own surveys to show how Alaska’s nonprofits are an essential part of everyday life. This time around, we chose to wait until we had a complete dataset on the labor impacts of 2020, which was an essential component to understanding the role of the sector in the pandemic. While the pandemic is not over, the numbers do help us anticipate what is to come.

This report is broken into six main categories that unequivocally show why and how nonprofits play a key role in Alaska and our economy. While it is tempting to share all the highlights, instead I invite you to dive in and discover how you fit into some or all of these six spaces. There are two ways to engage in the report. One is the full report that turns the data into useable information and has stories of action. The other is the interactive version on our website that has a map to help you find more in-depth data by census region. Either way you choose, I hope that by reviewing the data your own process will begin to cement the information into knowledge, and you will be ready for action.

I hope that as you engage, you see how our sector comes together and feel proud of our collective efforts. It is so rare to see nonprofits viewed as our own industry in Alaska, or really anywhere. So go slow and let it sink in – you are part of a larger whole that is making Alaska an even more incredible place to live, work, play, and thrive. Of course, the data also raises some hard truths and challenges that we must attend to if we are going to create more equity in our work and with the Alaskans we serve. We can truly learn our way forward together in these efforts.

This report is also about helping community leaders and policy makers at the federal, state, and local levels better understand us. To that end, you will notice that it focuses on actions they can take to partner more with nonprofits in funding, information sharing, decision-making, and policy making. We know, and we want them to know, that we are all in this work together and that no sector – not government, private, or nonprofit – can do this work alone. In every section, a specific call to action is associated with each theme and on page four of the full report, overall calls to action are added for their consideration.

For the rest of us, our calls to action are listed on page 36, and they invite each of you to bring the data into your own teams to have deeper conversations and to make important decisions. We also have an additional request – help us share this data in your community. Our goal is to talk to Rotary clubs, chambers of commerce, local and tribal governments, and we need your help to get there. We have already started this journey with our state legislators and will continue through the session and beyond. If you know a place where this data can help set the stage for policy or funding decisions about the sector, contact us and we will work with you to take the next steps.

Together, let’s turn data to action that benefits Alaska.