If Maine really wants to save money, a new report suggests an investment in the nonprofit sector would bring big dividends.

Nonprofit organizations already save the state millions of dollars by providing community-based services and care, and there’s a lot more savings out there. That’s the message of a new report, “Partners in Prosperity: The Maine Nonprofit Sector Impact,” issued by the Maine Association of Nonprofits.

The association issues an economic impact report every other year. Key findings in the new report, based on the most recent data available:

Maine nonprofit organizations add $8.2 billion to the Maine economy annually. That represents 17 percent of the state’s gross product, which is greater than the manufacturing and construction industries combined;

Maine nonprofits employ one in seven workers, making the sector the second largest employer in Maine behind retail;

More than half of Maine’s 6,315 registered nonprofits are small, with annual incomes of less than $25,000.

Scott Schnapp, executive director of the Portland-based association, said the nonprofit sector is in relatively healthy shape. It is stressed economically, and faces challenges with expected cuts in state funding looming. But Maine continues to have one of the most robust nonprofit sectors in the country, despite having one of the smallest philanthropic communities.

“This report proves again that Maine nonprofits are strong, innovative and efficient partners,” he said.

The report includes several profiles of organizations that are doing laudatory work and saving government dollars at the state and local levels.

One of those groups is the Iris Network, which provides vision rehabilitation services to 1,000 people annually. Iris is based in Portland, and serves residents from Houlton to Saco. It employs about 40 people, including part-timers.

It spends, on average, $1,000 a year per client for its services. helping clients stay in their homes and avoid long-term care, Iris saves millions of dollars in long-term care costs, said Iris executive director Jim Phipps.

“Having the state spend $1,000 to keep someone safe and home is a huge return on the investment,” he said. “Long-term care costs about $50,000 annually. So our services save the state 50 times its investment.”

The need for the services that Iris provides will become more acute in the years ahead, he said. Because of the state’s aging population, Iris anticipates its client list will quadruple from 1,000 to 4,000 annually.

By far, the health care, human services and hospital sectors are the largest economic contributors. Hospitals account for only 2 percent of the 2,935 nonprofits with gross receipts greater than $25,000. And yet, hospitals account for 53 percent of the overall $8.2 billion economic impact and 37 percent of overall nonprofit employment.

Nursing and residential care facilities account for 13 percent of nonprofit employment; ambulatory health care, 10 percent; and home health care services, 2 percent.

As Maine’s population ages, the demand for the health-care related services provided by nonprofit agencies will grow, Schnapp said.

“We’re the oldest state in the country. We’re a poor state and our health is not good. Those three factors drive those statistics,” Schnapp said. “The good news is, these are jobs that cannot be out-sourced. These are jobs we have to have in Maine.”

The goal of the report is to heighten awareness of nonprofit services, while stressing their importance to building community and quality of place.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

[email protected]