In what seems like a lifetime ago, I spent one year as the executive director of a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Milwaukee. In that year, I developed many new skill sets, and it opened my eyes to a world I didn't even know existed.
One of the lessons from that experience was the realization that there is a whole lot of new wealth generated in southeastern Wisconsin.
I'm talking about two-income couples who did not necessarily grow up in wealthy households. They have climbed the corporate ladders, and many have even started their own companies.
They're driving expensive sports utility vehicles, they take exotic vacations and they're building McMansions in the suburbs or living in posh Downtown condominiums. I say, "Bully for them!"
However, because they were not brought up in wealth, many of them do not know how to effectively give back to the community. Another problem is that many of them have never been directly and passionately asked to get involved.
I'm not talking here about slipping a dollar bill in the little red kettle on the way out of the grocery store (not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that!).
I'm talking about really giving back. Giving back time, talent and fortune.
Well, if you don't know how or you've never been asked, I'm going to take those excuses away from you right now.
I know of two great resources that can help southeastern Wisconsin individuals and businesses connect directly with the local nonprofit community: The Small Business Times Nonprofit Directory and the OnMilwaukee.com Wishlist.
Looking for a year-end tax deduction? Or maybe you just would like to give back a little something because it 'tis the season? We've got your ticket.
These nonprofits need all the help they can get. Donate some money. Donate a car. Donate used furniture. Volunteer your time. Serve on a board of directors. Sponsor a golf outing. The ways in which you help are too numerous to count.
This is the first year of the SBT Nonprofit Directory. More than 130 nonprofits have filled in their free forms on the Web site. Their missions run the gamut, from children's organizations to charities that help the elderly, clean the environment or protect animals. You can peruse the directory by the missions of the organizations. Whatever trips your trigger. Go for it.
These nonprofits are literally making the world a better place. But they have very limited resources and staff. Many of these organizations face precisely the same issues that small businesses grapple with every day, from human resources and organizational structure, to marketing, web site development, landscaping and office supplies.
We asked the nonprofits to tell us how local businesses can help. Here are some of their randomly retrieved responses:
A $75 donation to Arts @ Large Inc. will provide an arts-rich environment for a child in a local school for a year.
The Agape Community Center, serving the people on Milwaukee's north side, needs "a large, powerful snowblower" and a van to transport teens to athletic and educational events.
The Elmbrook Humane Society could use some cleaning supplies (especially bleach), office supplies and assistance with building maintenance and landscaping services.
Family Service of Waukesha needs some paint, wood and other supplies to refurbish its "Big Yellow House."
MargaretAnn's Place-Wisconsin's Center for Grieving Children needs the skills of professionals who have backgrounds in finance, strategic planning, public relations and marketing, fund development, event planning, administrative functions, bereavement counseling, research and human resources.
NubaCare needs donations of computers to be refurbished for Milwaukee inner city homes and West Africa.
The United Community Center on Milwaukee's south side needs volunteers of all kinds to serve in their multi-generational programs.
The Walworth County Literacy Council is in dire need of a new or gently used laptop computer.
Wisconsin Community Services Inc. needs help in remodeling the kitchens and bathrooms at its two rooming houses for the mentally ill.
The West End Development Corp. serving Milwaukee's west side needs donated mechanical contractor services (electrical, plumbing and HVAC) for renovation of commercial space on 27th Street, an updated computer system and office furniture.
The Homeless Assistance Leadership Organization (HALO) Inc. needs pillows and pillow protectors, towels, underwear paper products (including diapers and feminine sanitary napkins) and food. Businesses are invited to collect these items through employee drives.
And there are many more giving and volunteer opportunities where those came from. Pick one and get 'er done.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.