Supporting Local Nonprofits

Supporting Local Nonprofits

The Madison community knows quite a lot about impact. It’s a common word that many use to describe how their programs and efforts can directly affect its citizens. Without impact, nonprofit organizations are unable to see their hard work pay off and measure the changes that have been made as a result of their initiatives. Businesses want to have an impact, too. They seek to make their brand profitable while serving customers’ needs. And when businesses and nonprofits pool their efforts, that impact is amplified.

Here in the Madison region, corporate philanthropy is alive and well. It’s one of the reasons why nonprofit organizations are able to reach as many people and causes as they do. Indeed, Madison provides a model of the impact that corporate philanthropy can have in a community.

While there’s no shortage of leading examples, we profile six area nonprofits that understand how effective it is to collaborate. Whether it’s partnering with businesses, sister nonprofit organizations or local schools, together they provide the building blocks to strengthen individuals in whatever capacity they need most and create tangible results that positively impact each and every one of us.

For more than three decades, Leslie Ann Howard has served the United Way of Dane County by focusing on its commitment to improving the lives of all our residents. Today, her team’s work revolves around education, health and safety as part of the United Way’s “Agenda for Change” initiative. Each year she leads United Way as it strives to support the Madison area with additional programming that can help more residents find stability in all aspects of their lives. These changes are made possible for a variety of reasons, one of which is the multiple partnerships and collaborative efforts between businesses and the United Way.

A new initiative started this spring connects 31,000 residents without high school diplomas for job training at different levels so that they can gain economic stability. This program is possible only because of the collaboration between businesses, community members and United Way. 

“Businesses offer intellectual thinkers that help us think of ways to be more effective and efficient in our services,” says Howard. “Without all types of people participating, we wouldn’t be able to do anything.”

Another recent program that will provide a much-needed safety net for families in Dane County is United Way’s new partnership with UW Health to provide health insurance to families between 100 and 133 percent of the poverty line.

“We want to improve the quality of life for all residents in Dane County, not just a subset,” she says. “Partnering with organizations like UW Health, which steps up their generosity when they see a need, helps us reach more people.”

Another leader in giving back, CUNA Mutual Group has enjoyed a strong, longstanding partnership with United Way. Their dual commitment to the “Agenda for Change” has not only benefited the community, it has had a positive effect on both organizations.

Steve Goldberg, CUNA Mutual Foundation’s executive director and a longtime community advocate, says United Way’s work has had a dramatic impact on the company’s giving policies. Each year they participate in United Way’s annual community campaign and Born Learning early childhood initiatives.

“We love how United Way of Dane County provides a strategic architecture to guide our community’s collective approach to the top issues affecting local quality of life,” says Goldberg. “We also appreciate United Way’s leadership in several major communitywide initiatives addressing those issues and their success at holding nonprofits accountable for measureable outcomes.”

The ability to provide data-driven results, as well as the difference donations make to programs, is enticing to businesses and allows CUNA Mutual and other corporate givers to see the direct benefits of their support.

In 1910, the charity that would become Family Service Madison launched to provide relief to the poor. Today’s FSM provides to individuals in the Madison area mental health care resources and services ranging from drug and alcohol treatment to anti-violence support groups. Through numerous programs they maintain their initial emphasis on collaboration with other area health organizations to make a larger impact. According to CEO David Johnson, it’s a critical element that has kept Family Service going strong all these years.

“FSM has continually focused on being collaborative by providing management, financial and billing services for other agencies that need those services but do not have the infrastructure to provide themselves,” he says.

This in turn provides an additional revenue stream that allows FSM to offset government and funding cuts over the years. Johnson says working with other organizations dedicated to healthy living creates long-term community involvement and improves the quality of services for all participants.

In addition to its impact on the people it serves, the environment at FSM helps make employees’ work part of a giving lifestyle that enhances the workplace.

“After forty-six years of professional service, I can say this is the best job I have ever had,” says Johnson. “What a pleasure to be associated with FSM and the good work that our staff provides for this community.”

Each employee is committed to finding the most effective ways to help individuals that seek the variety of services FSM provides. Johnson says the board of directors is especially committed to understanding the risks and challenges that the agency faces. Having every level of the organization completely involved in FSM’s mission streamlines services to those who need it most and makes their impact more immediate and effective.

Consistency over the years has kept FSM’s work providing niche mental health services in Madison a reality. Johnson says they will continue to collaborate with anyone or any organization who wants to improve the Madison area and the lives of those who live, work and play here.

Every day Becky Steinhoff witnesses firsthand the impact the Goodman Community Center‘s programs have on children, seniors and everyone in between. And after twenty years as the nonprofit’s executive director, she knows a little something about kids and consistency. Last year alone, more than 30,000 children, teens and adults used programs or resources from the center, all made possible with a qualified, dedicated and hardworking staff and board of directors as well as corporate partnerships with generous companies.

“We can always see such a huge difference in kids who have been with us for years compared to kids who we are meeting for the first time in middle and high school,” she says.

American Family Insurance is one of Goodman Community Center’s long-term supporters through grants, sponsorships, in-kind donations, employees who serve on committees or provide professional expertise and through the annual United Way giving campaign. This continued involvement sets a precedent for businesses and demonstrates how influential corporate philanthropy can be in the community.

“Corporate support for the center is critical, not only because it provides funding and often volunteer partnerships, but also because funding from our corporate community provides a stamp of approval and recognition of an investment in quality,” says Steinhoff.

The Goodman Community Center also receives support from other entities. Steinhoff says partnering with local schools has helped build a solid foundation for successful learning through innovative education strategies. Just in the last year, the center’s many and varied school initiatives have helped more than fifty preschoolers graduate from Goodman kindergarten, 250 elementary and middle schoolers engage in their learning and more than one hundred high school students get back on the road to graduation.

Their partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and individual schools targets academic achievement of underperforming and struggling students. Goodman staff members work in the schools monitoring grades, attendance, behavior and supporting school day learning in the morning and after-school hours to supplement their educational experience. Innovative programs with alternative school opportunities in the district allow students to attend full or part days and focus on project-based learning such as urban agriculture, culinary arts and food preservation.

“Our job is to integrate core curriculum standards into their hands-on learning environment as much as possible,” says Steinhoff.

Madison is a fitness-savvy city, so it’s no surprise the YMCA of Dane County provides much more than just athletic opportunities to the community at large. YMCA programs offer everything from aerobics to disease prevention and seek to reach a wide variety of people to improve their lifestyles.

Many know that the YMCA teaches swimming lessons to everyone from preschoolers to adults, but additional programming opportunities for kids with special needs is one way they are making their work truly accessible to all community members. Additionally, almost $2,000 is dedicated each year to adaptive programming for adults with disabilities to involve them in community-integrated activities. With $118,441 in program funding, support for adaptive programs makes a lasting impact on a niche group of residents.

As a nonprofit, the YMCA relies on financial support through donations to help 6,500 people access and engage in healthy lifestyles. Sharon Baldwin, senior director of marketing and healthy living, says philanthropic gifts of all kinds help level the playing field to provide equal access to YMCA memberships and its substantial menu of services.

“Without the Y, where would these people go to learn athletic and life skills and help build up the community?” says Baldwin. “No other organization can impact as many people as powerfully as we do every day.”

Volunteer support is another essential part of the YMCA’s ability to provide afforable, accessible programs to the community. Whether it’s coaching a youth sports team, advocating for healthy lifestyles, teaching a class or leading a committee, the YMCA has a volunteer opportunity for every interest. More than 1,250 volunteers dedicate their time to the YMCA each year to support programs that give 39,800 members a sense of belonging in the community. Kids, teens, adults and senior citizens benefit from the opportunities provided, but also reinforce the YMCA’s work through their outreach and advocacy of the YMCA’s programs.

“Our members and friends call us their Y, we call them our greatest resource,” says Baldwin.

Started in late 2012 by charitable business leaders, Madison4Kids has one simple goal: bringing local people and resources together to help kids. That simplicity in mission leads to flexibility in tactics, from providing financial assistance to any local program benefitting kids to helping others create their own organization for youth. Madison4Kids connects people directly with what they are lacking, such as providing a wheelchair for a child with special needs, or by introducing them to a local nonprofit organization that already has programs in place to fit their needs. 

As the organization starts receiving grant applications and inquiries from local people and organizations, they want to ensure they can make an immediate difference with the help of other community groups and private citizens.

Jon Goldstein, a private wealth advisor at Goldstein & Associates, is settling into his new role as a board member for Madison4Kids. His experience on the corporate and nonprofit fronts makes his work a passionate pairing. 

“I want to see the impact the charity itself has firsthand,” he says. “I want to see who is helped, I want to know that the gift of time or money was impactful.”

This cause has resonated with many people in a very short timeframe, and Goldstein is grateful that a dedicated board of business leaders and community members has been able to make the founders’ vision a reality.

“We want to build a foundation that can efficiently integrate and communicate our mission in a concrete way,” he says. “The ability to help kids and to be able to watch the impact—how do you measure or define that?”

Vanessa Arboleda came to Madison for a veterinary technology program at Globe University, but she ended up broadening her interest in animals in new and meaningful ways. Madison opened her eyes to the impact that nonprofit organizations can have on a community. When Arboleda traveled back to her home country of Ecuador to volunteer, she recognized an inherent need for animal care services that were not being provided. This inspired her to start her own nonprofit organization, La Casa del Perro, or the Dog’s House.

Arboleda wants her organization to provide veterinary care and temporary refugee to homeless or neglected pets in various beach towns in Ecuador. She hopes to help diminish pet abandonment and stray animals and ensure that animals are healthy if they must roam. The potential impact La Casa del Perro could have on these towns is significant. Arboleda says many of the stray dogs and cats carry parasites and bacteria that are harmful to humans, but that the lack of awareness and respect for animals makes her mission difficult to explain to residents.  

“The negligence that we see is a reflection of beliefs that are strongly rooted in the people that live in smaller, poor towns all over the world,” she says. “Providing veterinary care and increasing awareness will reduce the risks to humans and improve animals’ lives.”

As Arboleda begins La Casa del Perro, she is working first from Madison to establish connections and build up her resources before reaching out to connect with existing organizations in Ecuador. Her experience working for the local dog day care center Ruffin’ It Resort has initiated a partnership to begin providing sponsorship and necessary care items. Arboleda’s work with the Dane County Humane Society has also helped her see the full community connection that can be made when partnering with businesses and other nonprofit organizations occurs.

“Nonprofits bring people and ideas together,” she says. “A community can go without a critical need for a very long time without knowing it until someone with a new perspective comes along.”

Nonprofit organizations and their partners serve as a reminder that everyone in the Madison region can be involved and positively impact the lives of other community members. No idea or gift is too small and every opportunity to make a difference counts. Sharon Baldwin lives by this mantra in her work with the YMCA.

“Together we can achieve so much more,” she says. “Every gift makes a difference and everyone has a role to play.”

The difference that nonprofit organizations, businesses and individuals can have on their own pales in comparison to the impact they can have when their resources are combined.

It’s time we said thank you to these local nonprofit organizations and their partners who are making a recognizable impact in the critical work of building a stronger Madison.

GRETCHEN MIRON is the community relations associate at Madison Magazine.