Public Document Retrieval
Trying to find data for comparison of the number nonprofit-sector jobs between the Twin Cities metro and Chicago wasn't too difficult. First I looked for information on the number of nonprofits in the TC 7-county metro. On the website of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development there was a labor market analysis helpline. The "analyst" told me he didn't have that information at his finger tips but he could call me back with it. A couple hours later he did just that, and told me that nonprofits make up 8.5 percent of the jobs in the TC. I was able to verify that with the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. I spoke with the Communications and Marketing manager at the Council, who directed me to a report on their website with that information, the 2006 Minnesota NonprofitEconomy Report, which also breaks down the categories of nonprofits and what services they provide. She told me I was welcome to call her anytime with questions about the report of the services they provide.
I thought I'd look at how that compares to Chicago, since it is the nearest metropolitan area and also has a population very close in numbers to the Twin Cities. It took a few more steps than the first search, but I eventually got the info I was looking for. First, I tried the Illinois Department of Labor. Their website didn't offer anything close to what I was looking for, so I tried the "contact us" page for the Chicago area. The woman who answered their helpline told me they don't separate nonprofits from other kinds of companies, but she sent me to another website where she thought I might find what I needed, the website for the Illinois Department of Employment Security. I was transferred to a very nice man named Lamar who said he didn't think they had the info I was looking for, but then directed me to a web page with some census data, gave me his toll-free number and said I could call him with questions after I looked over that document. He was right, the info I needed wasn't there.
Next, I Googled "Illinois Nonprofits" and few other search terms and found the Donors Forum of Chicago. "A Portrait of the Nonprofit Sector in Illinois" was not hard to find there, and I read that 8 percent of workers in Ilinois work for a nonprofit, most in the Cook County, which includes Chicago. Additionally, the health care sector is the largest employer, as it is in Minnesota.
From there I linked to the website of the Urban Institute, which helped with the Donors Forum report, and got some countrywide statistics on nonprofit employment.
I've also requested some information from the Minneosat attorney general's office, specifically the number of new, closed or merged nonprofits over whatever time frame they measure. Mike Nelson, who who took the request, told me they might be able to gleen that info from their raw data and he'd get back to me this week and let me know.
Everyone I spoke with was helpful and tried to direct me even if they didn't have the information I needed. This represented maybe 3 or 4 hours of work, including web searches and phone calls. And the Web provided me with documents instantly, unlike the old days when I would have had to wait for a fax or a document through the mail. Man, I love the Internet; it's an advantage being old enough to appreciate it.
Illinois Dept of Empl. Security.: 866-663-7723 Lamar Johnson
Mike Nelson: firstname.lastname@example.org