Learn to Earn in Biz Town: Nonprofit Teaches Career Skills to Students

By Marina DeWit – Region 9 Advocate

There are more than 1.5 million registered non-profit organizations in the United States and in the past ten years, the number grew by 30 percent.  A 501(c)(3) organization is a type of organization that operates exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary or educational purposes.  With non-profits making up more than 7 percent of employers and employing more than 12 percent of private-sector workers, they are valuable businesses that impact the economy.

Advocacy visited a non-profit organization called Junior Achievement of Arizona (JAAZ).  It provides classroom programs that inspire the next generation to be financially capable and prepared to succeed in the professional world.  It was founded in Arizona in 1957 and employs over 35 individuals.  With more than 8,000 volunteer mentors, JAAZ partners with nearly 400 schools to teach students in the classroom about the importance of money management, work readiness and entrepreneurial thinking.  The in-classroom programs are offered at no cost to teachers or students and correlate to state and national standards that help students connect what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.  After going through the lessons program, students have the opportunity to apply their knowledge in two engaging hands-on facilities that feature more than 40 different businesses and industries.  Located in Tempe, Ariz., JA Biz Town and JA Finance Park are experiential programs where students operate a simulated economy and take on the challenge of running businesses, as well as learn about all aspects of personal finance. 

The mission of Junior Achievement is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.  The organization serves more than 80,000 K-12 students in Arizona each year, teaching youth the skills they need to manage money, succeed in the workplace and be problem solvers in adulthood.  The biggest challenge for JAAZ is obtaining the money to reach more schools in the state.   Because Junior Achievement is a non-profit organization, it depends on the financial volunteer support of individuals, foundations and businesses.  Along with federal tax exemptions, 501(c)(3) nonprofits usually receive exemptions from state and local sales and property taxes as well.  Recently, JAAZ became an Arizona Qualifying Charitable Organization, where Arizona residents can donate up to $400 per person using Arizona tax credits without competing with school tax credits.

With over 21,000 non-profit organizations in Arizona, each is constantly focused on fundraising to have enough money to support the mission.  Many private and state companies believe in giving back to the community through contributions and employees who volunteer in the community.  Since more than 99 percent of non-profits have fewer than 500 employees and represent 45 percent of non-profit employment, financial support is one of the main components to their success and survival. 

If you would like to learn more about non-profit organizations in the United States, Advocacy recently published a fact sheet titled, “Small Business Facts: Spotlight on Nonprofits.” The fact sheet is available here.

Marina DeWit serves as the Region 9 Advocate for the SBA Office of Advocacy, representing small businesses in Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands of Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Trust Territories. DeWit works with small business owners, state and local governments, and small business associations to bring the voice of Region 9 to Washington DC. She can be reached at Marina.DeWit@sba.gov.