Sonoma Gives: Nonprofits become a billion-dollar sector in Sonoma County
Challenged by years of doing more with less, the nonprofit sector is now thriving in Sonoma County, where 1,375 organizations generate at least $1.2 billion in annual revenue, employ more than 16,000 workers and marshal an army of tens of thousands of volunteers.
Hospitals and community clinics are the largest sector in the local nonprofit world, generating more than a half-billion dollars in annual revenues, according to an analysis of financial reports from nonprofits headquartered in Sonoma County.
The remaining $700 million is divvied up between large and small organizations that do everything from feeding and sheltering the poor and homeless, housing runaway teens and providing seniors with hot, delivered meals.
Whether the need is medical or environmental research, human services, disaster preparedness and relief, youth development, civil rights and advocacy, or arts and culture, Sonoma County has a nonprofit to address the issue. Some rely almost exclusively on government grants, while others have aggressive fundraising mechanisms that tap into the county’s generous pool of big and small private donors.
“One of the reasons we have such strong nonprofits is because we have such generosity from donors who are either on stage or behind the scenes helping us,” said Todd Salnas, president of St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County.
St. Joseph Health operates both Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, both nonprofits incorporated in the county, with a combined revenue of $460 million, making it the largest nonprofit based in Sonoma County. Beyond the hospital’s walls, St. Joseph provides a wide array of services in partnership with about 250 other local nonprofits.
That collaboration, a growing trend in the nonprofit world, is both inspiring and necessary to meet the needs of the community, Salnas said.
“You feel the energy and vibe from a strong sense of community with nonprofits here,” he said. “Every single thing we do involves another partner to serve the community.”
Sonoma County benefits from a staggering concentration of nonprofit revenue.
The Bay Area, which includes Sonoma County, has just 19 percent of the state’s population but captures 53 percent of the state’s $208 billion in nonprofit revenue - more than $110 billion a year, according to the California Association of Nonprofits, a trade group based in San Francisco. Contrast that with $43.6 billion generated annually by nonprofits in the Los Angeles area, which is home to 29 percent of the state’s population.
While 52 of Sonoma County’s 1,375 nonprofits generate more than $5 million annually in revenues, most are far smaller. Half of the nonprofits generated less than $100,000, according to data compiled by CAN using IRS Form 990 reports from 2012, the most recent data available. The figures include donations, public and private grants, income from fees charged for services, investment income and other revenue.
Overall, the local nonprofit sector employs at least 16,173 workers and utilizes 50,000 volunteers, based on reports by nonprofits incorporated in Sonoma County that file the 990 long form.
The figures exclude nonprofits that are incorporated outside Sonoma County, including several that maintain a major presence in the community. Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa, for example, generates $500 million in annual revenues and employs about 900 full- and part-time workers, spokeswoman Lisa Amador said. Kaiser Permanente, an Oakland nonprofit that employs 2,555 workers and 375 physicians in Sonoma County, does not break out local revenue figures, spokesman David Ebright said.
A handful of service categories dominate the nonprofit landscape in Sonoma County, led by education with 297 organizations; human services with 225; and arts, culture and humanities with 208. Health care, an economic dynamo, has only 23 nonprofits, while recreation and sports nonprofits such as youth sports leagues number 99.
The work of a nonprofit is often tied to health of the local economy, said Juan Hernandez, executive director of La Luz Center, a social services organization primarily serving Sonoma Valley’s immigrant community.
A major downturn such as the Great Recession sometimes forces local nonprofits to redefine themselves, as both private donations and government funding shrink.
Hernandez said La Luz used to provide more case management “wrap-around” services with intensive follow-up for each family that came to the center for help. However with the recession, the number of people entering the center’s front door shot up from 100 to 300 people a week.
“The capacity of the organization changed,” Hernandez said.