“The culture around here is that everything can be improved,” says Alex Comfort, board president of the Western North Carolina chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “People in WNC understand how important nonprofits are in helping those in need and also bringing us the highest possible quality of life.”
Collectively, nonprofit organizations in Buncombe County spent $1.6 billion during fiscal year 2011 and employed 14,586 people (not counting religious organizations), according to the N.C. Center for Nonprofits.
The Johns Hopkins Economic Data Project, which tracks employment and other changes in nonprofits, found that the sector grew during the recession — a time when many other industries were shrinking.
Between 2007 and 2009, for-profit employment showed an average annual decline of 3.7 percent nationwide, yet the nonprofit sector grew by 1.9 percent. North Carolina had an even wider split: For-profit employment decreased by 4.4 percent, while the nonprofit workforce increased by 3.9 percent.
Nationwide, 57 percent of all nonprofit jobs are in health care, and hospitals are the leading employer, the study reports.
As for local philanthropy, says Comfort, “All areas of giving seem to mirror national trends. Children, education and health care are strong, but we appreciate the arts as well. Nationally, of course, arts funding has taken a hit in the midst of the recession and recovering economy.”