Nonprofits surveyed statewide 'Basic information' is sought by Feb. 14

February 05, 1996|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Maryland has 11,692 nonprofit organizations that the Internal Revenue Service considers eligible for tax deductions -- a loose invisible empire whose economic and social impact is considerable but whose details as a group are vague.

Some of the nonprofits are as small as garden clubs and PTAs. Others are as large and well-known as universities and hospitals. Some offer programs and services, others provide money.

For the first time, 4,000 of them are being surveyed statewide to outline a Maryland portrait. Picked for the survey are those with at least a part-time paid employee, and most of the questions deal with how they provide services.

The Maryland Association of Nonprofits, whose 595 members are among those being polled, is conducting the survey with the hope that 500 replies will be received by Feb. 14. Results will be reported in the fall.

The groups in IRS tax category 501(c)(3) are religious, educational, charitable, scientific and literary. Others are involved with public safety, national or international sports competition and prevention of cruelty to children and animals.

Peter V. Berns, association executive director, said the nonprofits want a total picture that can only be guessed at now. "We're looking for basic information of this invisible sector: The size of budgets -- where's the money coming from? Where's the charity going? Who is served? How many employees and volunteers do they have?"

Ethics and public trust are on the questionnaire. Respondents are asked to agree or disagree with such statements as, "The public is becoming increasingly distrustful of nonprofit organizations" or "Nonprofit board members often use their positions for personal enrichment" or "There are too many nonprofits soliciting charitable contributions."

Mr. Berns said the first organized picture of Baltimore-area philanthropy appeared when several big local charities commissioned a survey of the larger nonprofits in 1987.

The study by Lester A. Salamon and two associates at the Institute for Policy Studies of the Johns Hopkins University concluded that philanthropy was big business here. In 1987, more than 700 organizations including 30 hospitals and 13 universities had operating expenditures of $2.5 billion compared with $2.4 billion for local governments. They paid their 70,800 employees about $1.3 billion.

Expenditures of $202 per capita for the 2.3 million Baltimore-area residents were below the national average of $266, New York ($488), Minneapolis ($306), Providence ($255) and San Francisco ($238) and above Chicago ($187), Pittsburgh ($170), Atlanta ($154), Phoenix ($127) and Dallas ($119).

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