Keelan: Growth of nonprofits does not bode well for Vermont

By Don Keelan

We usually think of nonprofit organizations as the local food shelf, summer stock theater, libraries and the local hospital.

I intended to take a sabbatical from writing about the Vermont nonprofit sector until I came across Vermont Business Magazine’s recent issue, 2021/2022 Giving Guide. The Guide had a plethora of data on the largest, by revenue, of 117 Vermont non-profit corporations.

Don Keelan

The combined total revenue of the 117 was reported to be approximately $6.497 billion. The revenue cutoff for these 117 organizations is less than $7.4million.

By way of reference, using the non-profit Common Ground’s data from earlier in 2021, Vermont has approximately 6,175 nonprofit organizations. Assuming that the average annual revenue from the remaining 6,058 organizations is $500,000, the total annual revenue from the non-profit industry would be close to $10 billion. Vermont’s gross state product is about $20 billion.

Common Ground notes that the annual revenue of the nonprofit sector exceeds the combined income of Vermont’s construction and manufacturing industries. The former far outpaces the income from the Tourism and Agricultural sectors, estimated at $4 billion and $1.5 billion.

The 10th largest Vermont-based manufacturing company had 2021 revenues of $34.4 million ( Vt. Precision Tools, Inc.), whereas the 10th largest nonprofit’s revenue was $114 million (Howard Center).

The above data on nonprofits does not account for the revenue generated by Vermont State Government, municipalities, public schools, or religious organizations.

We should all be concerned about this trend. Nonprofits have become the dominant industry in Vermont. With the billion dollars recently received from Washington and billions more to come, the nonprofits’ role will become more significant and powerful, with greater influence over our lives.

This columnist previously noted that much of state government operations are delegated to non-profit organizations located within Vermont: The State does not have the staff, nor expertise, to operate many traditional state agencies.

For example, Vermont state agencies are in no position to execute most of the suggested 225 mandates of the Vermont Climate Council; the role will be delegated to nonprofits.

There are three issues with this that are deeply troubling:

First, what is taking place in Vermont is no longer tied to the business sector, which has lost its influence within the past several decades.

Second, decisions by nonprofit executives are channeled to the organization’s board of trustees, not to government agencies or the Legislature. Appointed or elected government officials are not making critical decisions.

Third, and most troubling, there is little or no oversight regarding the Vermont nonprofit sector. However, the health care sector, which makes up approximately 20% of the total annual revenue, does have some oversight, mainly of a budgetary formality.

Don’t discount the three areas currently under crisis in the state, mental health, food insecurity, and housing, fall under the 14 regional mental health non-profits, the five regional non-profit councils on aging, the Food Bank, Hunger-Free Vermont, and the non-profit Vermont Housing and Finance Agency in Burlington.

By state statute, the Office of the Vermont Attorney General is responsible for overseeing the operations and function of the Vermont non-profits. These sectors have grown exponentially; it is impossible to expect real AG office oversight.

I agree with Common Ground’s assessment of the Vermont nonprofit sector: it is “a vital community partner.” With that noted, the sector has become the dominant industry in Vermont and vital to the state’s economy, employment and operations. Because of its massive size, the nonprofit sector should not be ignored and should have some oversight.

And in so far as manufacturing’s future in Vermont, writer C.B. Hall in the January 2022 issue of VBM noted, “You can actually outgrow your local labor force … twenty years ago, I think we lost a whole generation of people who didn’t go into manufacturing. I don’t think Americans looked at manufacturing as a career.” This does not bode well for Vermont.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Flickr/

12 thoughts on “Keelan: Growth of nonprofits does not bode well for Vermont

  1. Non-profits enable the left to circumvent prohibitions that restrict the government overreach. They are being paid by the Mexican cartels to facilitate the illegal flow of citizens of other nations into the U.S.

    • Richard you are right, the majority of poor work, that can, at the same “businesses”. They help to keep the flow of “refugees” constant warm and happy and the rest of the poor in line. There are many that do just what you say, they discriminate, whether thru covert actions or thru direct action to stifle the opinion and actions of the people in this state. It has been nonprofits here in Addison county that have pushed the masks and shots not most businesses. Remember VTDigger is nonprofit, notice no comment section regardless of the article. There are so many and they do as you say the overreach of the government. Not 100% sure, but isn’t Planned Parenthood also nonprofit.
      With the grand pooba making a medicare, medicaid restriction on all not for profit businesses, Like I have said in other posts They refuse to trasport, refuse to do pretty much anything that will threaten their cash influx.

      This should and has to stop. First, stop putting them begging for money, on the ballot. Second change/strengthen the Whistle Blower laws to include volunteers and volunteer/whistleblower retaliation. Too many of the nonprofits have done things that people in the know could have stopped but the state offers NO protection to them to stop abuse, neglect, and crimes, yes crimes, that a normal business would be shut down and charged for and the worker/whislteblower is protected. If caught, based on past proformance, they simply chage the company name and it’s business as usual.

  2. Is it time to start taxing the non-profits? I think so. The Legislature is always looking for sources of income. Perhaps a good way to start solving the teacher’s pension dilemma.

      • Some hospitals are non profit yet they have a fee (tax) levied on them supposedly they get all or some sent
        back by a financial wizardry trick. What is troubling is being governed by unelected bureaucrats.

    • Non- profits can bring in $$$$$ under the guise of ‘helping’. It behooves us to examine their truer intentions/hold them accountable/demand transparency

  3. In his piece, Don writes: “Vermont state agencies are in no position to execute most of the suggested 225 mandates of the Vermont Climate Council; the role will be delegated to nonprofits.”

    So the mandates from the Climate Council will be delegated to the same non-profit organizations that originally lobbied and pressured the legislature and the Climate Council to create the mandates in the first place. The non-profits benefit from the billions of dollars to be spent on climate change and get even bigger and more powerful than they are now.

    Is this situation troubling to anyone? If it isn’t, it should be……It’s worse than even Don Kleelan has described.

    The non-profits have pushed for the biggest and most expensive so called climate solutions. A naive legislature has bought the lobbying push hook, line and sinker and passed the Global Warming Solution Act that created the subsequent mandates.

    With the mandates now required, the non-profits are set for years of profitable operations attempting to satisfy the mandates they pushed for……But it get worse……If the mandates aren’t met, then the non-profits can sue the State and demand more money be thrown at climate change….And the non-profits will be the beneficiaries of any remedies that arise from suing the State.

    This is totally unbelievable and brought to us by a naive legislature that has been rolled by the non-profit organizations taking over Vermont.

    • The AGW cult is a fanatic religion justified by its own dogma whose predictions have been reliably wrong. It would never again snow in London, etc. We were on the verge of an impending ice age in the seventies. That didn’t happen. yet. We haven’t reached the interglacial peak temperature, so we probably will get warmer (eventually) – but climate, like weather, is chaotic and we could have an intervening mini-ice age. Climate models are based upon their preferred suppositions and they reliably broadcast the most improbable extremes of projected climate change.
      Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of working group 3 of the IPCC: “[…] One must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. […] One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”
      Like their high priests, owners of oceanfront estates that consume the electricity of whole neighborhoods, ship sized yachts and private plane trips to exotic locations to discuss curtailing carbon dioxide production actually believe any of the balderdash they’re feeding us?

  4. I decided to help a few years ago, by voting no on the non-profits that want tax dollars added to town budgets and I refuse to give a penny directly to non-profits. — I do help with time and expenses directly to some I find personally who need a helping hand up.

    I have come believe that most of these non-profits are making work for their own employees and directors, and don’t really do a lot for the people who need help. — I’ve gone to a couple of these non-profits for advice on taxes, weatherization, and similar things, and not one of them could answer basic questions or point me in the direction of useful answers or help.

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