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Last modified: Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nonprofits are major players in South Bend's economy

April 24, 2007

Kirsten Gronbjerg

Print-Quality Photo

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Nonprofit organizations account for 17.4 percent of all employment in the South Bend metropolitan region, providing nearly $714 million in wages annually, according to research led by Kirsten Grønbjerg, professor in Indiana University Bloomington's School of Public and Environmental Affairs and Efroymson Chair in Philanthropy at the Center on Philanthropy at IU.

Grønbjerg will discuss the scope and dimensions of South Bend's nonprofit sector and its impact on the region's economy Tuesday, May 1, at IU South Bend. The talk will take place at 8 a.m. in the Student Activity Center, Room 225. The event is part of the Make a Difference Michiana conference and is free and open to the public.

St. Joseph County leads the state in its share of total employment devoted to the nonprofit sector, Grønbjerg said. Her most recent completed analysis indicates that the 17.4 percent share of employment in the region is well above the state average of 8.1 percent.

"It's clear that the health of the nonprofit sector in South Bend is a significant part of the heath of the region's overall economy," she said. "The economic significance of nonprofits is something people have not often thought about. Most people are only aware of nonprofits in terms of the activities of human service charities. In fact, the economic impact of the nonprofit sector is underestimated, because our methodology does not allow us to include people employed by churches and other nonprofits that are not registered with the IRS as exempt entities."

Grønbjerg will discuss additional distinguishing features of the South Bend nonprofit sector, such as greater emphasis on health-related fields, comparatively larger percentage of organizations with at least 50 employees, and stronger-than-average reliance on government funding.

She will also address challenges faced by nonprofit organizations, such as high reliance on volunteers, limited financial resources and difficulty in recruiting and retaining qualified board members.

"Nonprofits include everything from hospitals and universities to arts and culture organizations, stamp collectors and barbershop quartets, so the issues involved in managing and supporting them are complex," she said.

Grønbjerg's findings are summarized in a report titled, "South Bend Nonprofits: Scope and Dimensions," available online at: A report on the state, including comparisons of South Bend and other metropolitan areas, is available at:

"Professor Grønbjerg's presentation will help us learn more about the characteristics, scope and diversity of our nonprofit sector," said IU South Bend Vice Chancellor Alfred Guillaume. "We are pleased to have the SPEA connection between our campus and the community, and partnerships with many local nonprofit organizations. "

This event is co-sponsored by the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU South Bend and Make a Difference Michiana. Reservations can be made by calling 574-520-4132.

Make a Difference Michiana is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to connect the resources of the community with the nonprofit sector. Learn more about the organization at

For more information or to speak with Grønbjerg, contact Elisabeth Andrews, IU Media Relations, 812-855-2153 and