June 4, 2015

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Nonprofit Organization Leaders Discuss Need for Public, Corporations to Get Involved

by Adva Biton

June 4, 2015

The relationships between corporations and nonprofits, as well as how businesses can effectively get involved in their community, was discussed Wednesday when a group of nearly 20 nonprofit professionals at Utah Business’ annual roundtable met to discuss challenges, experiences and issues in their industry.

The nonprofits represented at the roundtable ranged from The Salvation Army to the Best Friends Animal Society to the Utah Health Policy Project. Many brought up the importance and difficulties of properly informing the public and corporations regarding the nonprofit community.

“I would like business leaders to know what I know as a nonprofit leader,” said Chris Zimmerman, executive director of the Weber School District Foundation. “If they truly want to get involved in their community, get involved in nonprofits. Then they will understand better what’s needed in their communities.”

For Ed Blake, executive director at the Salt Lake Valley Habitat for Humanity, communication is key—in educating businesses, the public, and even amongst nonprofit organizations.

“I think the challenges that we face a lot of times… [is that] you don’t see the need in the community. We have issues in our community—sometimes they’re third-world issues that we don’t expect to be here,” he said, using the example of a woman who nearly froze to death in her own home less than a mile from Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City.

Blake continued, adding that often nonprofits are called upon to do jobs that are better suited to other nonprofits, or have excess materials that other organizations could use.

“As a community, we need to work better [together],” he said.

When reaching outside of the organization for help, Blake said: “It’s incumbent on us to lay before them: ‘This is how you can get involved. Your involvement is either going to be time, it’s going to be knowledge, it’s going to be materials, or it’s going to be money.’ Quite frankly, we’re okay with any of those four.”

There’s plenty of importance of getting more people involved in nonprofit work. Utah has a tremendous culture of volunteering, but in such a small community, more is often needed.

“We’re growing, and it’s a significant opportunity for us to shape the future, to learn from the mistakes of our neighboring states and regions,” said Carl Fisher, executive director of Save Our Canyons.   

“Nonprofits are 10 percent of our economy, but our impact is far greater,” said Arlyn Bradshaw, executive director at Best Friends Animal Shelter. “I would want business leaders to understand what is a symbiotic relationship I believe we have with them. All the work we do increases the quality of life, which produces better employees and better business consumers. We also do a lot of work so that the government doesn’t have to, which keeps taxes lower.”

“Everybody can do something to make a difference in their community,” said Jeanie Ashby, executive director at the Maliheh Free Clinic. “Choose a cause that you and your employees are passionate about and step up and do something about it.”

Chris Bray, CEO of the Utah Nonprofit Association, moderated the discussion. Read more about the Nonprofit Roundtable in the August issue of Utah Business.

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