During this time of year many reflect on what they have to be grateful for. For me it was my decision to move to Northeast Florida, especially given my interests in the nonprofit sector. I have found that Jacksonville has a wonderful nonprofit community and that its leaders have been very gracious and generous with their time. For the last three years, I have had the pleasure of having local leaders within the nonprofit community volunteer their time to share their knowledge and experiences with my graduate students in the Nonprofit Management course at the University of North Florida.
Each speaker has brought his or her experience, wisdom, and insights about the challenges and experiences of leading nonprofit organizations. I would like to personally thank each person who has contributed to the learning experiences of my students over the last three years. Nina Waters, President of the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida; Jimmy Orth, Executive Director of the St. Johns Riverkeeper; Jim VanVleck, local philanthropist and board member; Cindy Funkhouser, President and CEO of the Sulzbacher Center; Hope McMath, Executive Director of The Cummer Museum of Arts and Gardens; Judy Smith, President and CEO of HandsOn Jacksonville; Rena Coughlin, CEO of the Nonprofit Center of Northeast Florida; Gail Patin, COO of Hubbard House, and; Bob White, former Executive Director of the Jacksonville Cultural Council.
These leaders represent an array of different types of nonprofits, ranging from arts and advocacy to human services and environmental protection. Too often when people think about nonprofits, they think of only one or two types. However, to fully appreciate the role of the sector in society, they should be viewed holistically; with each organization representing a strand of the fabric that supports our community. As the weave tightens, the support for our community strengthens. By learning both empirical best practices from the texts and the individual experiences from the speakers, students leave this class with a better understanding of not only how to strengthen their organization’s strand through better management and leadership practices, but also how their stand fits into the beautiful tapestry that reflects the nonprofit community in Jacksonville.
These speakers represent a small sample of some of the great nonprofits that operate in our community. During this time of year, I hope you take some time to learn more about our local nonprofits and the role they are playing in your neighborhood. Be as generous with your time as the leaders of these organizations have been. Volunteer, donate, get involved. ‘Tis the season. Wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season.