Non-Profits Discuss Their Pivotal Role In Y-K Delta Economy

Aug 15, 2018

According to the Foraker Group, almost 50 percent of Bethel residents work in the nonprofit sector.
Credit Courtesy of the Foraker Group

Non-profits aren’t usually considered big money makers, but they play a pivotal role in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s economy. In a series of meetings last week, Bethel non-profits explored how they could leverage that economic power to empower the communities they advocate for.

A  recent study produced by the Foraker Group, the state’s non-profit consulting company, suggests that Alaska relies on its non-profits. If the non-profit sector was treated as its own segment of the economy, they would be one of the largest employers in Alaska, right behind oil and gas. The report also says that non-profits play an outsized role in Alaskan politics.

"Our non-profit sector is written right into our state’s constitution as providers of essential services," said Foraker Group CEO Laurie Wolf. "Where in other cities or states, where you have government delivering services - in Alaska, we have non-profits that do that."

Last Thursday, Wolf travelled to Bethel to discuss her organization's report with the town’s many non-profit leaders. According to the study, non-profits are actually the Y-K Delta’s top job creator. Forty-eight percent of Bethel’s jobs are in the non-profit sector. "You have your healthcare, AVCP, amazing educational organizations," explained Wolf. "That’s a big generator in the workforce."

Wolf encourages non-profits to recognize their economic influence and use it as leverage to build closer partnerships with government. That way, they can get more services delivered to more people.

Wolf held a series of talks in Bethel on Thursday, which were attended by personnel throughout the non-profit world. Bethel Community Services Foundation Executive Director Michelle DeWitt said that she found the discussions inspiring.

"I think the reframing of that conversation was really important," she said. "Non-profits are not takers in our state. They’re doers, they’re service providers, and they’re economic drivers too."

You can check out the Foraker Group’s study on Alaska’s non-profits here.