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Merlene Davis: TV show promotes better understanding of non-profits

Recent years haven't been kind to non-profits. Many have been pressed to do more with far less, forced to deal with large decreases in government and individual funding, while trying to accommodate sharp increases in demand for their services.

As a result, several have closed their doors, and others are teetering on the lip of an abyss.

What would happen to Lexington, to Kentucky, to this nation, if all non-profits ceased to exist? Where would needed services come from? That question has bugged Kyle Lake since 2007 when it was first posed during a meeting of non-profit agencies in Frankfort.

"Who would feed the homeless, care for the elderly, provide health services, protect our homes, or educate our children?" Lake asked.

He joined a coalition of members from various Kentucky agencies that explored that issue for a documentary. But, as often happens, life got in the way and pushed the project to a back burner that is now heating up.

Lake is CEO and executive producer for Prosper Media Group Inc., which is releasing the second of a series of television shows called kNOwMORE Nonprofits on KET highlighting non-profits and their value to our quality of life.

The goal of kNOwMORE is to inform viewers to become more aware of the work non-profits perform before they disappear.

The latest episode will feature Chris Eddie of Smiley Pete Publishing discussing the online coupon service, Pete's Deals, where a portion of the proceeds go to a non-profit charity of the customer's choice; and Kathleen Martin of Get Healthy Kentucky discussing health initiatives, including Second Sunday, which encourages people to become more active in their local communities.

Danielle Clore, director of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, which is the state association of non-profits, said most people think of non-profits as do-good organizations and don't realize the economic impact of non-profits.

According to a 2009 report, non-profits contributed more than $17.4 billion in expenditures in 2007, or roughly 10 percent of Kentucky's gross domestic product.

Also, the arts and human services, most of which are provided by non-profits, add to the quality of life in a community and are important in our attempt to lure new businesses here.

"I just don't think people realize how often they come in contact with non-profits," Clore said.

That is what Lake hopes to change.

In the first episode of kNOwMORE, people attending a Thursday Night Live event in Lexington were asked to name five local non-profits. Most were hard-pressed to come up with any that weren't local branches of national organizations.

Obviously, non-profits need to use the show as a tool to get their stories out. Lake said anyone, including members of a non-profit, can nominate an organization to be featured on future shows. The nomination form can be downloaded at Knowmorenonprofits.com.

Lake, who moved to Lexington in 2003 as a graduate student and has sat on the boards of a couple of non-profits, wants viewers to watch the show and then maybe even write a check when the story of an agency touches their hearts.

"People should know about this cool stuff that is going on," he said.

Lake, the production crew, and the show host volunteer their time, which is why the project has taken so long.

"We have the distribution," he said, with KET. "That was our first goal. We are trying to get the concept out there." There is a goal of one show a month that will be aired repeatedly on KET and KET Kentucky. Another goal is for the production to find underwriters or sponsors, Lake said.

Air times vary and most for the second episode are not in prime time. So, if you have to, tape the episodes or check listings at KET.org for an airing during waking hours.

If, after watching a few episodes, you are able to name more than five non-profits, the show will have done its job.

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