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Stories of Nonprofit Impact: Higher Literacy Lifts Health of Businesses and Communities

by Jessica Lantos

MANP recently release the 3rd edition of Partners in Prosperity: The Maine Nonprofit Sector Impact, which showcases the powerful social and economic impact of nonprofits in our state. We’ve been featuring stories from the report here on our blog, and encourage nonprofits, public officials, and community members to download and read the full report for free.

Our fourth featured story of nonprofit impact comes from Literacy Volunteers of Bangor, whose mission is to connect adults who want to improve their literacy (either learning to read or speak English) with trained, volunteer tutors.

Partners in Prosperity Case Study: Higher Literacy Lifts Health of Businesses and Communities

The Impact

Through Literacy Volunteers of Bangor (LVBangor), 277 volunteers donated more than 16,000 hours of service at a community value of $265,000 to help improve literacy for 238 adults over the past year. By mobilizing a large pool of skilled volunteers, LV-Bangor is able to serve adults who want to improve their reading, writing, and/or English speaking abilities for just over $300 per student. This small investment in Bangor area residents increases literacy, which helps communities be healthier and Maine businesses be more productive, profitable and sustainable.

The Story Behind the Impact 

When literacy within a community is improved, lots of other areas improve, too. For example, securing appropriate healthcare hinges on having the skills to read and fill out medical and health insurance forms, communicate with healthcare providers, and follow basic instruction and medical advice. Low literacy adds an extra $230 billion to the country’s annual health care costs, while improved literacy helps people be healthier and reduce individual, insurer, employer and government health care costs.

Businesses do better when literacy improves, as well. Increased profitability, improved sustainability, and greater employability of Maine residents all result. Low literacy costs an estimated $225 billion per year nationally in non-productivity and lost tax revenue due to unemployment, and among those with the lowest literacy rates, unemployment is higher than average. Improved literacy also benefits immigrant communities. Every 1% increase in the English literacy rate of speakers of other languages yields a 1.5% permanent increase in the GDP. LV-Bangor helped improve the literacy of 238 adults last year, 53% of whom are learning English as another language. Thanks to over 16,000 volunteer hours, valued at $265,000, the services have an actual cost of $308 per student, and are provided free of charge.

For more information about this story or topic,  contact Literacy Volunteers of Bangor.

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