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There's a place in the local economy for nonprofits

According to the 2010 Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report, the northwest region of Minnesota has the largest share of nonprofit employment locations in Minnesota (nearly 700) outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Nonprofits located in this region...

According to the 2010 Minnesota Nonprofit Economy Report, the northwest region of Minnesota has the largest share of nonprofit employment locations in Minnesota (nearly 700) outside of the Twin Cities metro area. Nonprofits located in this region paid out 12 percent of all wages in 2009 and reported an average of four percent per year increase in payroll since 2007. Meanwhile, for-profit payroll has fallen an average of two percent per year in that same time period.

A common misconception is that nonprofits "take" from the community and add little or no economic value. Research completed by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits demonstrates something very different. Annual IRS reporting (Form 990) demonstrates that 700 nonprofit employment locations in northwestern Minnesota provided 24,000 jobs in 2008; living wage jobs capable of supporting a family of four.

Not only do nonprofits add jobs to the region, nonprofits have a profound effect on quality of life. It is true, people moving to the area want good jobs, access to recreation and retail options. However, they also want to know that services are available for the needs they have as they age, the needs their children have or might need down the road, and they want to be able to join in the decision making around those services; all benefits offered by nonprofits.

Community Resource Connections (CRC) is a membership organization that supports nonprofits by connecting them to one another, to the resources they need to do their work, and to the clients they are intended to serve. Our work could be compared to the Chamber of Commerce; instead of area businesses we focus on area nonprofits.

February is membership month at Community Resource Connections (CRC). Nonprofit agencies and community members are asked to show their support for area nonprofits and the work that CRC is doing to develop a strong nonprofit sector - meanwhile taking advantage of the benefits of membership. For an annual fee of just $25, community members gain access to information, resources and opportunities presented by the nonprofit community. Supporters can feel good knowing that they are supporting the infrastructure of nonprofit work. Awareness of community leadership roles and reduced fees for CRC produced resources, are additional benefits.

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Nonprofit agencies throughout northwestern Minnesota are invited to join CRC. Nonprofits gain the support of 40 plus nonprofit agencies, creating a collective voice that is more powerful than an individual agency standing alone. CRC facilitates networking opportunities, joint marketing and outreach efforts.

"It is a great way to connect with other nonprofits, learn from their mistakes, and create relationships that serve as the foundation for collaborative projects that better serve the community" says Jeanne Edevold Larson, CRC Chairperson and Executive Director of Northern Dental Access Center

A longtime member and supporter of CRC, Geri Hickerson of Northwoods Habitat for Humanity refers to CRC as the "pulse of nonprofits in the area."

This year we have a perk that is extra sweet. Anyone applying for CRC membership and sending in their annual dues by Feb. 16 will have their name entered into a drawing for two pies from Perkins Restaurant. It's our own version of "sweet 16."

In addition to the local benefits, CRC membership entitles nonprofits to a decrease in cost for membership to the statewide organization of nonprofits; the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) provides state-wide representation for nonprofits at the policy making level. They offer reduced rates for nonprofit insurance, joint buying power for office supplies through Office Max, among other benefits. Nonprofits that join CRC automatically receive a $25 coupon toward MCN membership.

View the work of Community Resource Connections and the benefits of membership at www.crcinform.org . A membership application is available online by clicking on the "Membership" button on the CRC home page or calling 218-333-6838.

RUTH SHERMAN is executive director of Community Resource Connections, the Bemidji area's council of nonprofits.

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