Christine Amer Mayer: How business and nonprofit sectors work together

On a daily basis, I see how the work of the private sector and the work of the nonprofit sector are inextricably intertwined — all a part of the same big picture. The more we understand that fact as a community, the more we can align our investments and leverage our strengths.

The GAR Foundation is a private foundation created in the late 1960s by Galen Roush, the co-founder of Roadway Express Inc. Roush was a standout leader in the industry who had grown the small local trucking firm he launched during the Great Depression into a national powerhouse.

When he and his wife Ruth set up the GAR Foundation to fund nonprofit organizations, they did so with the understanding that a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports the success of a business like Roadway.

Working together

As businesses grow and innovate, they need a well-educated workforce. The nonprofit sector’s many investments in education help to ensure that Greater Akron’s businesses have a ready supply of world-class, “homegrown” talent.

As businesses work to attract great talent to their teams from other places, they need the kind of cultural vibrancy that makes Akron a distinctive, quality place. The nonprofit sector’s investments in arts and culture support community vibrancy and quality of life. Businesses seek to locate and grow in high-functioning, healthy communities where citizens’ basic needs are met and all people have an opportunity to have a productive life.

The nonprofit sector supports the basic needs of Akron’s citizenry, helping to make this a community we can all be proud to call home.

One hand washes the other

We can see some ways in which a high-functioning nonprofit sector supports a healthy private sector. And yet the benefits run at least as strongly in the other direction — from business to nonprofits.

Businesses provide leadership talent to nonprofits through board service and volunteer hours. Every successful business person in Greater Akron can support the well-being of the community by volunteering his or her time and talents to nonprofits.

Moreover, as funding for nonprofit work contracts and its needs expand, cutting edge business practices become increasingly important to the operation of successful nonprofit enterprises. Practices long favored in the private sector — from the strategic use of data for performance management to rigorous outcome-based budgeting — are becoming commonplace in nonprofits.

So while many see the private sector and the nonprofit sector as “two different worlds,” they in fact have a close, symbiotic relationship. Nonprofits help to support the community conditions in which businesses can thrive and grow; thriving businesses in turn create prosperity and opportunity for the entire community.

Christine Amer Mayer is president of the GAR Foundation, which awards grants to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations in Summit and adjacent counties in the areas of education, arts and arts education, health and social services, and civic and nonprofit enhancement. She can be reached at (330) 576-2911 or [email protected]. For more information, visit www.garfoundation.org.

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