As cities are tightening their purse strings, more and more services are coming from nonprofits. The work they do is integral to the fabric of communities, but because of the non-discriminating rules about forming 501(c)(3) organizations, not much is known about the more relatively unknown hundreds of non-profits in San Mateo County.
Last month, Thrive, a membership organization of more than 135 nonprofits in San Mateo County, released the first comprehensive report to start documenting the nonprofits. The organization based their information off of 990 forms available on Guidestar.org.
For nonprofits, there isn’t the equivalent of a Standard and Poor that allows people to rifle through public information, according to Thrive’s Executive Director Porcia Chen Silverberg. This first ever report gives a glimpse of similar information.
According to the findings, there are 92 nonprofits headquartered in Redwood City, second only to San Mateo’s 97 nonprofits. But not included in this figure are organizations like the Second Harvest Food Bank in San Carlos and the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo that serve a large population of Redwood City residents. This sort of information is much harder to document, Silverberg said.
In contrast, seven cities in the county have fewer than one headquartered nonprofit per 1,000 residents: Daly City, South San Francisco, San Bruno, Moss Beach, Pacifica, Millbrae and East Palo Alto.
And though most non-profits begin with magnanimous intentions, many don’t remain active and often naturally dissolve. Last month, the IRS from 81 Redwood City nonprofits for failing to file their forms. However, this was due largely to the many organizations that could no longer be located due to their inactivity.
A little more than 5 percent of the nonprofits spend 80 cents of every nonprofit dollar, so there is still a small minority doing the majority of nonprofit work.
The median budget was only $190,000 and more than half of active charities spent less than $500,000, according to the most recent filed forms.
Human services and education nonprofits represent 63 percent of all agencies, yet manage only 31 percent of the resources. Health profits, conversely, represent 10 percent of nonprofits but spend nearly half of all nonprofit dollars, according to the report. The highest income generating nonprofit in Redwood City, Sequoia Health Services, brought in $183,837,723 in 2008.
“This is a conversation starter, to provoke more dialogue,” Silverberg said. She said this information is a resource for further collaboration amongst nonprofits.
She said there is a duplication of many services, but often they’re serving a specific community that needs that resource.
“You can’t make certain blanket statements about nonprofits,” Silverberg said.
Andy Frisch, Executive Director of in Redwood City, said that their nonprofit has been actively seeking more partnerships.
“In a time of limited resources, collaboration is key,” Frisch said. “We work with organizations that have complementing missions.”
He cited their partnership with the San Mateo-based Peninsula Resolution Conflict Society to celebrate its 25th anniversary. Though their mission statements aren’t exact, Frisch said that Kainos clients are often the target of bullying as well.
Though many nonprofits do not conintue for extended periods of time, Silverberg commended the hard work that is required to start a nonprofit.
But there is still much more research to be done in navigating the nonprofit landscape, Silverberg said.