The greater profitability of the nonprofit sector

The traditional reflections upon the passage of a year will take on a deeper meaning if only we will gaze forward while also glancing backward in a determined attempt to balance the advancements with their origins and the occasional setbacks.

That’s why we call the month January, at any rate: It takes its name from Janus, an ancient mythological deity, who had two faces. One face looked ahead while the other looked in reverse — just in case some unfinished business might be sneaking up from the background.

Janus was as circumspect as he needed to be, the better to keep the past and the future in context with one another.

That’s also a simplified outlook on how a balance is maintained by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and such kindred organizations as the Fort Worth Black Chamber and the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber. Not to mention such go-to leadership figures as Mayor Betsy Price and the Fort Worth Chamber’s Brandom Gengelbach, the recently-named executive vice president of economic development. The localized economic forecasts we’ve been seeing lately would be impossible without the groundwork of all those 2016-in-review tabulations that come with the New Year’s territory.

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Such now-familiar prospects and announcements as a new downtown skyscraper development; a Stockyards District preservation venture that also relies upon innovative redevelopment; and a resuscitated working relationship for the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra — the likes of these rely not so much on groundbreaking developments, as they do on a community history of honoring the can-do spirit of the original settlers.

Fort Worth owes its origins, after all, as much to a sense of community as to commercial development. For while that sense of community does not necessarily arise from commercial development, development cannot help but arise from the productive gathering of kindred souls — all determined to make the place a welcoming and nurturing haven for all concerned.

I harbor a special fondness for the nonprofit sector, which works hand-in-hand with the arts, education, healthcare, and the community’s spiritual vibrancy to create an environment capable of attracting and nurturing business and industry. Fort Worth’s ever-present spirit of goodwill stems in great measure from such nonprofit agencies as the Art Station, Rivertree Academy, Women Steering Business, and Friends of Northside, to name a few favorites.

So what’s the appeal that these organizations have for me?

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• Women Steering Business not only fits my own entrepreneurial agenda. It also has deep ties with the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. The organization boasts a core of civic-minded business leaders committed to developing future female trailblazers —primarily through the purchase of livestock exhibited by young women at the Stock Show. The schoolgirl cattle raisers, in turn, use the proceeds to advance their educational and vocational opportunities.

Women Steering Business is one of only a handful of large women’s buying groups who participate in the Stock Show. In only four years since its founding, WSB has contributed more than $616,000 to the Stock Show. And WSB is the only such organization focused on buying livestock specifically from young women during the show.

• The Art Station is the only nonprofit in North Texas providing art therapy for healing and growth to children, teenagers, and adults who are struggling with such challenges as depression, grief, and traumatic loss. The agency’s therapists are mental-health professionals who also have graduate degrees or extensive, specialized training in using art therapy in a therapeutic setting. The objective is to help clients to use a visual language when words might be inadequate to express oneself.

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The Art Station, founded over a decade ago, serves approximately 2,000 individuals every year — helping to manage emotional and physical health, repair relationships, enhance educational endeavors, improve job performance, achieve goals, enrich the lives of others and contribute to the community.

• Rivertree Academy, centered upon the Lake Como neighborhood, is a Pre-K4-through-fifth-grade private school that puts under-resourced students in touch with spiritual values, academic strengths, and community leadership. The objective is to end the cycle of poverty by preparing students to transform their circumstances, and those of their neighbors, for the better. A small monthly tuition, paid by the participating families, is only about five percent of the overall cost.

• Friends of Northside volunteer fund-raising organization for parents, who seek to replace lost funding from outside sources, support the school’s mission of academic and leadership preparedness, and strengthen the learning experience for all students of Northside College Prep High School.

• And I can’t resist mentioning of one of Fort Worth’s mainstay theatrical troupes, Stage West — a source of reliable dramatic entertainment for nearly four decades. Nor can I resist the allure of the stage, if only for one occasion: I’ll be making an amateur-actor début with Stage West in the troupe’s Acting with the Stars production on Feb. 14 at the Fort Worth Club. And more about that as things develop, so stay tuned.

I’m citing favorites here — agencies of personal appeal and interest — but we all should play favorites. It’s all our involvement that makes the crucial difference, and in turn, keeps the economic engines revved and ready for the advantages and the challenges that lie ahead.

Deborah Connor is sales director for the Fort Worth Business Press.