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Beth Gazley
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Debra Kent
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

George Vlahakis
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2005

Most Georgia counties and nearly half of cities partner with nonprofits, new study shows

JULY 21, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Georgia's private nonprofit organizations are critical to public services, a new study shows. Nearly half (48.2 percent) of Georgia cities and three-quarters (76.5 percent) of Georgia counties report that they work with nonprofit organizations to plan or deliver public services. One-half (52 percent) of the non-religious charitable organizations surveyed report they work with local governments.

The most common benefits of partnering appear to be an improvement in public services, access to new funding and improved relationships between partners.

These findings come from a newly-released study produced by Beth Gazley as a doctoral project under the direction of Jeffrey L. Brudney of the University of Georgia. Gazley now teaches in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

"This study is a first for Georgia and one of the first of its kind in the nation," said Gazley. "These 'public-private partnerships' are a common form of privatization, and they are likely to continue to grow in number."

Three-quarters of the partnerships are in the three broad areas of social, health and human services; public safety and emergency response; or economic development. Fewer than half involve government funding. Georgia county and city governments work together with nonprofits in a wide range of activities, including sharing information, staff, facilities or volunteers; joint case management; fundraising; or program planning.

The study sampled Georgia's city and county managers, along with nonprofit executives statewide to determine the scope and frequency of public-private partnerships.

"The frequency of public-private partnerships in the area of economic development was especially interesting," said Gazley, "because it highlights the important role that nonprofit as well as for-profit organizations play in promoting stable communities through chambers of commerce and various economic development initiatives such as the Better Hometown program."

The study also examined the community and institutional factors that promote public-private partnerships. "Understanding what can support cooperation between the sectors is bound to help public managers do more with their limited resources, especially in smaller communities," she explained.

This study finds that partnerships are most frequent in larger communities, a factor most likely due to nonprofit availability and the greater complexity of public services in urban areas. However, the study also finds that fiscally stable governments of all sizes are more likely to involve nonprofits, as are communities where the city or county manager has some nonprofit experience.

"That's good news and bad news for Georgia's public managers," said Gazley. "The fiscally stressed governments seem to have less managerial capacity and less ability to participate in joint community planning, which can be time-consuming. Although they are most likely to need the help of nonprofits, they are least likely to get it. But we are encouraged to find that a city or county manager with some nonprofit experience, perhaps gained as a volunteer or a former employee, can help to bridge the divide between the sectors and generate more partnering. We also find that public managers are generally quite happy with their partnerships."

More details about this study can be found at