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Top Nonprofit Executive: Don Shisler, President and CEO: Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County

🕐 3 min read

Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, founded in 1888 as the Bethel Mission by 10 downtown churches, has about 130 years of experience providing food, shelter and support services to thousands of men, women and children.

It got a fresh start and a new name – Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County – in 1909 and adopted a new motto: No creed but Christ; no law but love.

In 1979 it moved into its current location at 1331 East Lancaster Ave., a six-acre campus. UGM, as it is also known, is unapologetically faith-based. The program approach is holistic and addresses physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs.

In 1995, Don Shisler became the president and CEO, and under his and the board’s direction, services greatly expanded. In 2008, UGM opened the Healing Shepherd Clinic to relieve overcrowded hospital emergency rooms and provide treatment for conditions common to the homeless, such as heart, liver and kidney disease; skin infections; pulmonary disease; diabetes; and hypertension.

And in 2016, UGM dedicated the Scott Walker Women and Families Service building with 28 rooms for single women (double occupancy), 12 overnight-shelter beds for women, and five rooms for families and children. And to help deal with the growing number of homeless fathers, five rooms are devoted to homeless men with children.

UMG’s income in 2017 was $7,810,864.

Shisler responded to a questionnaire from the Fort Worth Business Press:

What differentiates your company from others in a similar business?

What differentiates us from similar nonprofits is our ministry. We believe in treating the whole person, physically, mentally and spiritually. Real life transformations happen here when people commit to working our program, which works toward achieving productive independence for each individual or family.

All businesses go through some tough times. What was your greatest challenge and how did you respond to it?

Our community is very generous, however unexpected situations can arise, which can distract from local needs. The financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 was one of these unexpected situations. The needs of the people we were serving continued to increase while donations decreased. We responded to this situation by relying on our faith and staying true to our purpose. We worked diligently and did not take anything for granted.

The business climate is changing rapidly. What do you foresee as challenges?

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act could be a large challenge in the future, possibly leading to a drop in donations. It is hard to predict what changes this could bring, but we are optimistic.

On access to labor: As the UGM-TC staff continues to grow in order to properly serve those in need, we are continuously looking for dedicated employees.

Other challenges: With today’s rapidly changing environment, strategic planning is becoming increasingly more difficult for nonprofit organizations. This challenge makes it harder to anticipate the future needs of people experiencing homelessness in our community.

In general, do you see the present business climate as challenging, uncertain or optimistic and why:

I see the present business climate as optimistic. The potential to be more prosperous is growing as the government is working hard to eliminate barriers to a free market.

If you could make one and only one change in the present business climate, what would it be and why?

One change I would like to see is an increase in local businesses encouraging and allowing their employees to volunteer and do mutually beneficial work with nonprofits. When a community is involved, it becomes a stronger community.

Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County

1321 E. Lancaster Ave., Fort Worth

Employees: about 100

Instagram: @ugmtarrantco

Twitter: @ugmtarrantco

– Paul K. Harral

Paul Harral
Paul is a lifelong journalist with experience in wire service, newspaper, magazine, local and network television and digital media. He was vice president and editor of the editorial page of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and editor of Fort Worth, Texas magazine before joining the Business Press. What he likes best is writing about people in detail and introducing them to others in the community. Specific areas of passion are homelessness, human trafficking, health care and aerospace.

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