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VOL. 131 | NO. 257 | Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Nonprofits Raised Value In 2016 In Many Ways

By Don Wade

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In any given year, charitable giving might rise or fall. But when the Chronical of Philanthropy analyzed the giving of the country’s 50 largest cities via Internal Revenue Service data, it captured a larger sample size: 2006 through 2012.

And by that metric, Memphians in 2012 contributed 5.1 percent of their income to charity – second in the nation and much more generous than No. 50 Hartford, Conn., where residents gave only 1.9 percent.

Four years later, the proof that Memphians are willing to step up and help was evident on Grit, Grind and Give Tuesday, an initiative of the Memphis Leadership Foundation and other nonprofits, and held on the first Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

On that day alone, Memphians gave $220,000, according to Alliance for Nonprofit Excellence CEO Nancy McGee.

Marla Brown, development director at Agape Child & Family Services, at the agency’s new facility on Summer Avenue. The building was donated with help from intermediary Hope Christian Community Foundation.

(Daily News File/Andrew J. Breig)

“I do believe Memphis is a very generous place,” she said. “We’re a very faith-based community. And giving usually starts in churches, synagogues (or other religious places).”

While Memphis has plenty of large nonprofits and foundations, McGee notes that there are some 2,200 nonprofits (not counting churches and the like) in the city and Shelby County and most are small or medium-sized.

In the alliance’s 2015 survey of leaders of these organizations, nonprofits had a collective $14 billion in assets, employed almost 45,000 people, and had about $1.7 million in annual payroll.

Sally Jones Heinz, president and CEO of the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), is struck, too, by the impact of nonprofits that are not always front-and-center or sometimes not readily identified as a nonprofit.

For example, Shelby Farms Park’s Heart of the Park Project opened in 2016. Overton Park, despite some controversy over the Greensward, moved ahead with park enhancements. The Wolf River Greenway continued to stretch toward its completion date in 2020. And Explore Bike Share rolled forward and closer to a launch date in 2017.

“We can come together on the value of green space,” John Zeanah, deputy director of the Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development, said at a forum presented on parks and greenways presented by The Daily News Publishing Co.

Another example Heinz points to is the “Upstanders” mural. It is located on the south wall of Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit educational and professional development organization. Facing History and Ourselves collaborated with UrbanArt Commission, National Civil Rights Museum and Downtown Memphis Commission on the art work. The mural faces the Lorraine Motel and honors social justice figures including Rev. Billy Kyles, Nina Katz and Lucy Tibbs.

“It celebrates people no longer with us who stood up for the right things,” Heinz said. “I think that this year that was especially poignant.”

A quick sampling of some other feel-good stories: International Paper Co. donated $1.25 million to the Mid-South Food Bank, its signature charity. The gift will enable the Food Bank to consolidate from three warehouses into one larger warehouse and to keep pushing the number of people they can serve across 31 counties.

The Hope Christian Community Foundation served as an intermediary for Agape Child & Family Services to receive a much-needed, and anonymous, building donation valued at $600,000.

“We’re a faith-based organization, so for a community to say it’s important enough to gift a building so you can go deeper in your mission, that’s very encouraging,” said Agape executive director David Jordan.

HopeWorks, which helps people attain high school equivalency diplomas, learn job skills, and attain employment, acquired a new and larger building on Summer Avenue, the former Southern Security Federal Credit Union, for just $150,000.

“Indisputably below market value,” said HopeWorks executive director Ron Wade.

One of the area’s biggest nonprofits, United Way of the Mid-South, rolled out a new poverty-fighting program called “Driving the Dream.” The goal was to begin building a network that would unite local human service agencies in a client-centered “no wrong door” approach to working with families in poverty.

“A huge, social, entrepreneurial collection action experiment,” said United Way of the Mid-South president and CEO Dr. Kenneth Robinson.

The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce unveiled a new “MemphisWorks” app in December. Glen Fenter, GMACW’s founding president, said: “The beauty of this model is it isn’t talking about a theoretical job. It’s talking about an actual job in an actual community … There’s probably not another community that will have access to a similar tool.”

Also new: The Detroit-based Kresge Foundation started a grant program for Memphis organizations to help low-income residents. Agencies will compete for grants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 and that will last for up to two years.

Several organizations had leadership changes, among them Dr. Rychetta Watkins taking over as executive director at Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Mid-South Inc. Retiring Methodist Healthcare CEO Gary Shorb was selected as the new executive director of Urban Child Institute, and his duties will begin Feb. 1.

Watkins believes strongly that the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission is about much more than keeping young people out of trouble and offers numbers to prove it. In fact, you might even say the mission can profit a city.

“Whether it’s the military, two-year college, four-year college, or a trade school, if we can come alongside that young person it has a benefit for the larger community,” she said. “I think $600,000 is the net positive economic impact of a person with a high school degree and then it’s like $1.4 million for someone with a college degree.”

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