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Local organizations connect at first RGV Nonprofit Business Summit

The first RGV Nonprofit Business Summit was held Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, at the Region One Education Service Center in Edinburg. More than 200 community leaders from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered for sessions focused on improving cooperation and communication between area nonprofit organizations. Here, Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott opened the summit with remarks about Texanthropy, her new initiative to promote volunteerism and service to others. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

By Melissa Vasquez

EDINBURG, TEXAS – AUG. 9, 2016 – More than 200 people gathered Aug. 9 for the first Rio Grande Valley Nonprofit Business Summit, united in their hopes for building a stronger nonprofit sector for the Rio Grande Valley.

Organized by the UTRGV Office of Community Engagement & Assessment in the Division of Governmental & Community Relations, and OneStar Foundation, the summit brought together participants representing organizations from across the region to start a dialogue on how to work together to form unique alliances and solve challenges in their communities.

Julie Johnson, president of the International Museum of Arts and Science in McAllen – a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization – was among the participants.

“I wanted to see other people in the nonprofit sector and network, but I also wanted to see where we are going as a community,” Johnson said. “I think collaboration is the key, because there is not enough money to go around in the Valley. If we don’t start collaborating and working together, we are going to miss out on opportunities that could be much larger than what we are thinking of right now.”

With a theme of “Build, Connect and Promote,” the one-day event included breakout sessions on a variety of topics – public health, leadership and social entrepreneurship – and keynote speakers that included Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, who spoke about Texanthropy, her recently launched initiative to promote volunteerism and service to others.

“Through my Texanthropy Initiative I hope to help inspire more Texans like you to answer the call to serve,” Abbott said “As Texans, we really, truly are one family, and I want to thank you all for giving of yourselves and for helping to make Texas such an extraordinary place to call home. With your help, I know that we can work together to help enrich the lives of all Texans through Texanthropy.”

Renowned strategic partnership expert Barbara Harrington, founder of Sponsorship Plus, served as a keynote speaker and discussed how leaders from businesses, nonprofits, government and academia can come together to meet complex challenges.

The Edinburg summit, held at the Region One Education Service Center, is one of three in the 2016 Texas Nonprofit Summit Series hosted by the OneStar Foundation, which held its first summit in El Paso on Aug. 5. The third summit in the series will be in Lubbock on Sept. 15.

Veronica Gonzales, vice president for Governmental & Community Relations, said the impact of nonprofits is astounding as they are significant contributors to the economy and the well-being of communities. According to GDP (gross domestic product) data compiled by The World Bank, if the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the 16th-largest economy in the world, she said. She also said that in the United States, the nonprofit sector contributed $878 billion to the economy in 2012, for about 5.4 percent of the nation’s GDP.

“We are here today because we know collectively our impact is astounding. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, nonprofit organizations that network and leverage resources and knowledge build capacity more effectively than those that try to do it alone.

“Today is about building those links between nonprofits and business leaders that will transform our communities,” Gonzales said.

Johnson, as head of a nonprofit organization like the McAllen museum, said attending the summit was the opportunity she was looking for to start collaborating with other organizations that, like IMAS, rely on the support of donors and corporations. With IMAS getting ready to celebrate 50 years in 2017, Johnson said donors and sponsors will be important to the success of the large project.

“Just yesterday I was talking to a very large corporate foundation, and their comment to me was, ‘We normally don’t give unless there is a local plant or distribution center,’ and we don’t have a lot of that here,” Johnson said. “As a result, all of the nonprofits in this room are having similar experiences. So how do we overcome that?

“I think today is a very good opportunity to start on that path, and looking at the more than 200 people in this room shows the need and the willingness to branch out and look for help,” she said.

Cristina Trejo, assistant vice president for Community Engagement and Assessment, hopes to make the summit an annual event for the community. To support the nonprofit sector, UTRGV is home to the Nonprofit Resource Center, which is a component of Trejo’s area.

The first summit came together like a perfect storm, Trejo said, and after being approached by local nonprofits about getting together as a group, and the OneStar Foundation coming to them about hosting the summit, the timing was perfect.

“What is really important for us today is that people leave here knowing that they are going to be part of this larger alliance and what it will look like,” Trejo said. “We are hoping to create that vision today. We as a university are the conveners. But this alliance will really belong to the community and the nonprofit organizations.”

 UTRGV hosted the conference with support from Region One Education Service Center, AT&T, BBVA Compass Bank, and Dr. Nolan Perez, Gastroenterology Consultants of South Texas.


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