By Kenneth Harwood

This is a season when many people think of giving to private nonprofit organizations.    This chart shows examples of local leaders in yearly nonprofit revenue.

Locally, human services are by far the largest category of revenue, followed by education, chambers of commerce, and charitable social clubs. Nationally, the pattern of giving is to be most generous to religion, followed by education, human services, and foundations.

Religion may well be more important to local giving than suggested by the chart. Reported revenues are from the website GuideStar, which displays data from Internal Revenue Service form 990. Churches and similar organizations are not required to file tax returns with IRS.

Human services rank first locally and third nationally. Local prominence of human services seems to reflect our area’s long-time attractions as a place in which to retire, among other possible reasons. Human services rank ahead of education here, perhaps because of the unusually large numbers of the retired.

Yearly revenues in the latest reporting year appear to be related in part to size and wealth of community.

Our support of chambers of commerce and charitable social clubs seems to reflect our preferences for small businesses and civic responsibilities.

Our patterns of giving say much about us. They help to catalog our priorities in serving human needs and wants. They are an example of behavioral economics, a subject that won the Nobel memorial award in economic sciences in 2017 for Richard H. Thaler of University of Chicago.

Please go online to GuideStar and sort the entries by name of community to see federal tax returns of local private nonprofits. The website of Giving USA tracks national patterns of giving. Solvang Lutheran Home operates Atterdag Village retirement facilities, and its yearly gross revenues are combined with those of its foundation for purposes of this report.

Our local economic area includes Santa Ynez Valley and Los Alamos Valley.


Kenneth Harwood is the economist for the Solvang Chamber of Commerce.