Willard “Sandy” Boyd
Willard “Sandy” Boyd

As Iowa’s economy rebounds, the state’s nonprofit organizations play a vital role in developing local economies and lending a hand to Iowans who still struggle.

Those organizations employ 9 percent of Iowans and account for 8 percent of the wages earned by the state’s workers, according to a 2007 study by the University of Iowa’s Larned A. Waterman Iowa Nonprofit Resource Center (INRC). It found that the organizations had more than $8 billion in annual expenditures and more than $9 billion in revenues, making nonprofits one of the state’s most significant economic sectors.

The work these charitable organizations do is key to Iowa’s social and economic vitality, especially as governments cut back the services they offer. They are small, community- and faith-based organizations that provide important services in sectors such as social work, domestic violence, substance abuse, education and economic development.

Nonprofit groups also improve the quality of life in our communities. Charitable organizations in Iowa provide books and toys to children at accident or crime scenes, and tools and micro-loans to entrepreneurial craftsmen. They transport elderly persons in Dubuque, work with young African-Americans in Des Moines, and feed the pets of disabled persons in Cedar Rapids.

The INRC recently partnered with the office of Gov. Terry Branstad to create the Governor’s Nonprofit Project, an initiative to make Iowa a more nonprofit-friendly state and work to find effective collaborative efforts between state agencies and private nonprofits.

Our new organization will make interactions between nonprofit organizations and the state easier so they can focus on their mission and not on filing paperwork. Among the issues the Governor’s Nonprofit Project will examine are streamlining the process for state contracts, grant applications and the registration and auditing process, and possible changes in law and policy that would restrict property tax-exempt status or lower tax deductions for gifts to nonprofit organizations. We’ll also help nonprofits improve their operations by, for instance, looking for ways to provide health benefits.

The INRC provides free legal and management assistance to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations utilizing the resources of the University of Iowa’s College of Law and Henry B. Tippie College of Business. We provide assistance on tax questions, fund raising, information technology, board relations and other issues. We also teach an online certificate course for nonprofit managers.

The INRC will stay focused on keeping the nonprofit sector strong, and we encourage Iowans to share our commitment by giving whatever you can.

Willard “Sandy” Boyd is a law professor and president emeritus of the University of Iowa. Richard Koontz is executive director of the INRC.