Regional nonprofit leaders hear about the ‘state of their sector’ at area summit

Dauphin County forum discusses how to partner with for-profits, others in their own field

David O'Connor//October 10, 2016

Regional nonprofit leaders hear about the ‘state of their sector’ at area summit

Dauphin County forum discusses how to partner with for-profits, others in their own field

David O'Connor//October 10, 2016

With that in mind, Temple University Harrisburg last week hosted an educational session, “Building Bridges: How Nonprofits Can Create Stronger Connections with the Business Community,” for dozens of regional nonprofit leaders.

At a time when nonprofits face more and more pressure to raise money while getting the message out to the greater community about what their mission is, the seminar was designed “to at least start a discussion about how nonprofits can better work with the business community,” organizer Christina Reardon said.

Nonprofits too often have worked in a vacuum, performing their tasks individually and without much cooperation from the rest of the business community “almost as a point of pride,” Reardon, a research association at Temple’s Network of Evaluation Services and Training (NEST), told participants.

Nonprofit employees account for some 15 percent of Pennsylvania’s workforce, and the sector provides a wide range of good for society, but many on hand agreed that the sector could do a better job of teaming up with for-profits.

But the good news with that, United Way of the Capital Region president and CEO Tim Fatzinger pointed out, is that “corporate social responsibility” is a term heard more frequently in for-profit circles. 

So nonprofits and their causes may have more chances at partnering with the greater business community as sponsors.

But a warning flag comes with that, said Tina Nixon of PinnacleHealth System in Harrisburg – nonprofits should not be so eager to accept financial help that they accept donations from an organization that is not aligned with the nonprofit’s mission.

Be willing to say no thanks, Nixon said.

Reardon, a former Central Penn Business Journal staffer ‑ the Business Journal was asked to serve on the panel for the seminar, held Tuesday in Linglestown, Dauphin County – agreed that nonprofits sometimes “are so desperate for resources that they’ll look at any opportunity” to get a donation.

“It’s very important for them not to just accept money or accept resources,” she said. “It really needs to fit what they do.”

The session was part of Temple University Harrisburg’s “Enhancing Communities Learning Series,” which the school has been helping to coordinate since 2011.

The series offers low-cost training and information.

The training also offers networking opportunities for nonprofit officials, Reardon said. “Hopefully that will lead to collaboration, learning what’s going on in the sector, seeing who else is out there and maybe seeing potential partners who are attending,” she said.

(This reporter was one of the panelists, along with: the United Way’s Fatzinger; Nixon, Pinnacle’s vice president of mission effectiveness and chief diversity officer, and previously CEO and director of resource development of YWCA Greater Harrisburg; Mary Quinn, the Harrisburg-area YWCA’s current president and CEO; and Jennifer Powell, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank director of development)

Kyle Martin of Camp Hebron, a 340-acre Christian camp and conference center in Halifax, thought Tuesday’s seminar was helpful, especially the comments from the United Way’s Fatzinger on corporate social responsibility.

Nonprofits “need to be intentional about building relationships with individuals who align with our mission,” said Martin, marketing and development associate at Camp Hebron.

Jeanne Troy, major gifts officer of New Hope Ministries, a regional faith-based skills and human-needs provider, said she’s glad to see the old “silo mentality” of many nonprofits fading, being replaced by greater collaboration.

“Many used to think, ‘Don’t go into my area, because you might take away my donors.’ Now, they are realizing that there is strength in numbers, and more are working together to serve more,” Troy said.

Asked for an example of how a nonprofit and for-profit can collaborate, Troy gave one.

Her organization was “in dire need” of turkeys for its annual pre-Thanksgiving distribution back in 2014, she recalled, so a corporate partner that she asked not to identify spearheaded an effort to distribute some 5,000 turkeys. The company spent “a great deal of their own money,” Troy recalled.