How do we value the work of the nonprofit sector?

Here at Forefront, we’ve been looking at the Youth Development, Arts & Culture, and Environment fields to answer that question.

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Nonprofits play an economic role in Illinois–
as job creators, as avoiders of costly social problems.
But we also recognize that nonprofits play

social, cultural, and environmental roles.

To truly understand the full value of nonprofits,

we need to account for these things!

So, how does
Jamie’s afterschool experience impact her?


These are obviously really positive things for Jamie and her family.
But they’re also super positive for the community!

Each of these positive outcomes can be ascribed a value for both

Jamie AND the community.

Because she’s safe after school…



Parents’ additional earnings with extra time

Because she will graduate high school…



Jamie’s additional earnings
by not dropping out



What the community gains
each year in tax revenue

By avoiding teen pregnancy…



What Jamie avoids spending
by not having a baby early



What the community avoids
spending on Jamie’s public supports,
lost employment, dropping out,
and healthcare costs

By not having a criminal record…



Jamie’s additional earnings
when she finds a job



What the community avoids
spending for one year of juvenile detention

When you add up these positive outcomes, and the many others
that happen because of the afterschool program,

there is an impressive accumulation of value

to Jamie, her family, and the community.

When you add up all the positive outcomes
to all those youth, families, and communities, you get



But wait!

Lots of youth finish high school without an afterschool program.
80% to be exact. And lots of youth – 83% of them – avoid teen pregnancy, no afterschool program necessary.

So before we settle on the value of the youth development field, we need to subtract out the good stuff that would have happened to youth even without a program.

Once we do that, and compare the result
to the total investments in youth development…we see

the true social impact

of the youth development field.

$1: $45

For every $1 invested, $45 are generated in economic and social value for youth, their families, and communities.

Are we really NONprofit?

We’re MORE.

We’re the social impact sector.

Now what?

Take a deeper dive and explore SROI for:

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5 Responses

  1. Nancy Matthews

    This is great! I will be sharing this with my colleagues and students in Justice Studies at Northeastern Illinois University. I think it provides an accessible and clear message, educating people about the ways that nonprofits contribute to society. Thank you for this great work!

  2. This is a very succinct presentation on the impact of youth development work. This comes in handy as I work with groups of organizations that have been subjected to Governor Rauner’s Executive Order 15-08, terminating contracts for “non-essential” state services, and budget cuts stemming from an estimated $1.6 billion short-fall for FY 2016 and $6 billion for FY 2017. Thank you for sharing this presentation and the data.

  3. This was very well done. As a nonprofit afterschool program provider, it is wonderful to have this data because what works for the “good” in one state can also be of value to another. I appreciate the way the data was placed in social and economic terms. Oftentimes, it is difficult for funders to see the correlation. Thanks again for the information. I look forward to future reports.

  4. Andrea Cote

    Hi there–This is great stuff! At The Cara Program, our SROI calculation focuses on savings and contributions to society through permanent and long-term jobs secured by our participants. I’d love to learn more about how the Arts & Culture, Environment, and Youth Development SROIs were calculated, but I’m unable to view or download the research pdfs linked at the bottom of each subject page. Each one loads to about 75% and then stops. Would it be possible to have these sent to the email address attached to this comment?

    Thank you!
    Andrea Cote

    Andrea Cote | Analytics & Process Manager
    e: | p: 312.798.3302 | f: 312.382.0268
    237 S. Desplaines, Chicago, IL 60661

    The Cara Program – Transforming Lives – Strategic Plan 2013-2017
    3,500 Jobs | 70% One Year Retention | $5.74 Back to Society for Every Dollar Invested

    1. dcoleman

      Andrea, Thanks for the heads up about the slow download time. I’ve just emailed you the reports. And we’d love to know more about your SROI work at Cara!

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