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Karen Sendelback

A Business Approach to Philanthropy

By: Amy K. Stewart

March 1, 2012

Karen Sendelback’s heart is with humanitarianism.

Sendelback, the new CEO of the Utah Food Bank in Salt Lake City, has worked for various for-profit and nonprofit organizations but her passion always brings her back to helping those in need with her fundraising and business skills.

Her approach is that a nonprofit is a business. “A not-for-profit simply means that our mission is not to turn our profits around to stockholders—but to stakeholders. It’s the clients we serve who are our stakeholders, as well as our donors. So we have to approach individual, corporate and foundation donors with an investment opportunity,” she says. “And in this case, the investment is in doing good.”

Sendelback, who took the helm of the Utah Food Bank in September, brings vast nonprofit experience to the job. She attended Fundraising School and earned her certification as a fundraising executive. Over the years, she has worked for almost a dozen nonprofit agencies, including the Red Cross, Guide Dogs for the Blind, the American Kidney Fund, the American Lung Association, Friends of the World Food Program, and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Foundation.

Sendelback says she learned from every job, but especially from the World Food Program (WFP), which aims to end global hunger and works primarily throughout the developing world. “This was hunger at a level I had never in my life even thought existed on this planet,” she says, speaking specifically of Sudan.

The WFP program was based on the needs of the community it was serving. It was not just about getting food to hungry children; it was about making sure the food was the most nutritious it could be.

“It was the increasing awareness of the needs right here at home that ultimately brought me to the Utah Food Bank,” Sendelback explains.

Three goals are on the front burner for Sendelback as the Utah Food Bank begins its 107th year: bringing fresh produce to the community via a mobile pantry delivery system, expanding services from the newly opened bank branch in St. George, and increasing efficiencies for the 135 food pantries and agencies that deliver food to clients across the state.

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