July 31, 2014

From rural Utah to the Wasatch Front, Utah’s nonprofit organizations continue to work toward solving some of the state’s most prominent issues, such as homelessness and women’s well being. Changing demographics and economic pressures have been a challenge, but innovation across the board is helping nonprofit organizations to adapt and grow their services.

We’d like to give a special thank you to Fraser Nelson, director of the Community Foundation of Utah for moderating the discussion.


  • Jerilyn Stowe, United Way of Salt Lake
  • Fraser Nelson, Utah Community Foundation
  • Ian Thompson, Comunidades Unidas
  • Kristy Chambers, Community Advocate
  • Anne Burkholder, YWCA of Salt Lake
  • Jared Perry, Make-A-Wish
  • Chris Bray, Utah Nonprofits Association
  • Kristen Lavelett, Local First Utah
  • Karla Arroyo, South Valley Sanctuary
  • Eric Bjorklund, Utah Youth Village
  • Maria Sykes, Epicenter
  • Tim Brown, Tracy Aviary
  • Erin Trenbeath-Murray, Salt Lake CAP/Head Start
  • Jack Forinash, Epicenter
  • Martha Wunderli, AAA Fair Credit Foundation
  • Karen Crompton, Voices for Utah Children
  • Tony Milner, Family Promise
  • Kasandra VerBrugghen, Spy Hop Productions
  • Adam Cohen, Odyssey House

What are some of the emerging issues you would like Utah’s business leaders to be aware of?

BURKHOLDER: The emerging issues for us have to do with women’s wellbeing. These issues are connected to business because the strength of women’s wellbeing affects the strengths of business. It affects their consumer power. It affects their education and their earning power. It affects their health. The degree to which Utah’s women are flourishing is going to affect the economic vitality of our state and the degree to which we flourish as
a whole.

How would you characterize the status of women in Utah?

BURKHOLDER: There are areas in which we have been improving. But
there are areas where we can still do better. For example, if you look at education, the graduation rate for women from public, four-year institutions is almost 10 percentage points lower than women nationwide. That’s a problem. There are almost 25 percent of women who have gone to college but not graduated from college. 

The gender pay gap is also an issue that businesses need to pay attention to in terms of being able to attract women to the workforce. Although we’ve improved slightly over the years, the wage gap is about 69 percent on the dollar. How does that affect the lives of children when women are not achieving equity in pay or equity in education?

CROMPTON: If we have large numbers of women who are not completing their education, it’s a pattern that’s going to be repeated. Earnings potential, life success opportunities are so dependant on education today.

If you look at the face of poverty in our state, and in our nation for that matter, single mothers are the majority. And that’s not a criticism of single moms, it’s just a fact. When you look at where the women who are living in poverty and raising families work, it’s in the retail sector, it’s in the service industry, typically places that have low wages and very few benefits. For a lot of moms it’s very complicated to work and raise a child. You have childcare issues. And if your work schedule is uncertain, planning for childcare can be very,
very difficult.

Utah’s a pretty great place for kids to grow up for the most part. We rank pretty high on most indicators. But over the last few years, we’ve started to see those rankings drop a little bit. It’s not so much that we’re doing things differently, it’s the fact that we’re not doing things differently. Other states are moving ahead with more funding for education in preschool, earned income tax credit, and other kinds of work support. We’re kind of holding still and other people are moving up at this point.

Jack, let’s pick up on what you’re seeing in rural parts of the state. Does this conversation resonate with you and Maria, our two rural people?

SYKES: When you say things like “childcare,” that doesn’t even exist in Green River. We’re dealing with some major issues there.

One of the things we’re most concerned about is the issue of “brain drain” in our rural communities. The kids with ambition come up, they go to the University of Utah, they go to BYU, and then they don’t necessarily come back to Green River. They’re not coming back and being a rural entrepreneur.

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