June 5, 2014

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Utah’s Nonprofit Leaders Discuss Emerging Issues, Needs for their Organizations

By Rachel Madison

June 5, 2014

A group of nonprofit industry leaders joined together Wednesday during Utah Business magazine’s annual Nonprofits Roundtable to discuss emerging issues among nonprofits and what they feel Utah business leaders should be aware of. The group discussed everything from women’s well being and education to services for children and Utah’s homeless community.

Karen Crompton, president and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, said one issue many organizations are facing is keeping up with the state’s changing demographics.

“[Our demographics] aren’t changing at the same pace as the nation, but we’re getting there and we need to address that,” she said. “We’re not doing things differently. You see other states moving ahead and providing more funding for education and 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. We need to change that.”

Jack Forinash, co-director of Epicenter in Green River, said rural nonprofit organizations face some different challenges than larger nonprofits. These smaller organizations often have to compete with nonprofits that serve more populated areas in Utah, specifically along the Wasatch Front, for funds as well as assistance from businesses. He said he encourages people from large towns to visit Utah’s small towns, because there is no comparison between nonprofits in small towns to nonprofits in more populated areas like the Salt Lake Valley.

Fraser Nelson, director of the Utah Community Foundation, said she’s often wondered if “hundreds of thousands” of nonprofits are needed in the state, but she’s realized the answer is yes.

“The large nonprofits can’t be expected to know what’s happening in small communities like Green River,” she said. “One nonprofit [serves] as the chamber of commerce, arts organization, poverty organization. They’re everything in their community. [Forinash is] sharing a reality of how limited the resources can be outside of the Salt Lake Valley. That’s why it’s so important to be entrepreneurial.”

Chris Bray, CEO of the Utah Nonprofits Association, said there are about 5,600 501(c)3 nonprofits statewide, and 67 percent of those are along the Wasatch Front. The biggest nonprofit sectors are health, human services and education, followed by arts and humanities.

“What people don’t understand is we’re 5 percent of the income within Utah and we employ 5.5 percent of the workforce,” Bray said. “We’re bigger than the construction, transportation, publishing and utilities industries combined. So while we have some tax benefits, we also employ people and we are a large sector with a lot of impact if we worked more closely together.”

Nelson said it’s important to recognize the economic powerhouse of the nonprofit sector. \

“We don’t often think about the amount of revenue we drive to the state in addition to charitable dollars given to us,” she said.

Bray said according to a survey conducted by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, 76 percent of nonprofit organizations in Utah are having a difficult time meeting demands.

“That’s because there is a flat giving level nationally, and in Utah there are not a lot of new businesses coming in to work with nonprofits,” she said. “My encouragement to the business community is to get involved, whether it’s through volunteerism, working on a board of directors or contributing in some other way. If every business in Utah got involved with the nonprofit community, we could change the face of Utah.”

Nelson moderated the discussion. The Nonprofits Roundtable will appear in the August issue of Utah Business magazine.

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