Op-Ed

Good business environment means stronger nonprofits

Leaders know the challenges that exist in today's economic climate. These challenges are the same for corporations, small businesses and non-profits alike. In fact, these are some of the most challenging times many of us have ever seen. We are making tough decisions daily that have ripple effects throughout the community.

We have been dealing with the issues of the economic downturn for a few years now. However, one issue that we as non-profit leaders and volunteers must understand is the direct impact of the economy on our local businesses, and in turn the effect on non-profits.

Unfortunately, too few non-profits truly give thought to their role in helping businesses and the economy in general. Many organizations give great thought to how donations are decreasing at a time when need is increasing, but without understanding how they can play a part in boosting our community's businesses.

The reality is that the economy must turn around in order for people and companies to invest in non-profit causes. After all, there are no not-for-profit organizations without for-profit companies and employment. It's a simple fact — when people have jobs, there is more charitable giving. It is in the best interest of non-profits to do anything and everything possible to help these businesses recover and prosper.

Recently, United Way of the Bluegrass hosted the 2011 Bluegrass Economic Forum, which provided a unique opportunity for Central Kentuckians to meet LaVaughn Henry, vice president and senior regional officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Leading up to the event, we had many people ask why United Way was interested in hosting such an event. They did not understand the connection between the economy, United Way and the Federal Reserve.

Our answer was two-fold. First, United Way's new role is to improve the lives of all Central Kentuckians. This cannot be done without addressing the economic conditions in which we all live and work. It deals directly with United Way's new mission of being a community change agent. Secondly, we felt it was important to connect Henry with our region's business and community leaders so they could get an understanding of why and how the Federal Reserve acts as it does, given that its actions have a direct impact on our local economy.

United Way was perfectly positioned to be the convener of such an important exchange of information, and we felt it was paramount to do so.

In today's economy and tomorrow's post-recession world, supporters are asking non-profits for results before investing their hard-earned dollars. Just as corporations are sharing their results with stockholders, non-profits must begin to better share their results — and how our community is a better place — with their donors.

At United Way, we are committed to reporting back to our investors twice a year, starting in March, on how their investments are changing lives and strengthening Central Kentucky. While change won't happen overnight, with creativity and innovative thinking, we can watch as milestones toward that end are achieved.

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