Return on Creativity Looks at Nonprofits

August 18, 2022 | By Susan Soroko


It may be a surprise to learn that Arlington is home to about 300 nonprofit organizations that employ nearly 8500 people, making nonprofits and associations some of the key industries in Arlington. While social services and charitable missions often drive nonprofit work, industries represented in Arlington’s nonprofits range from ones with household names like the American Diabetes Association and the Nature Conservancy to specialized ones like the North American Millers Association and the USA Rice Federation.

But how does Arlington, specifically Arlington Economic Development, support these nonprofits? Arlington's nonprofit organizations say the proximity to decision and policy makers is critical, and Arlington's infrastructure of robust transportation, a highly skilled and educated workforce, not to mention its various cultural amenities, are the backdrop to the levels of promotion, connections to business leaders, collaborations with universities and access to data that nonprofits need. Keeping in touch with nonprofits ensures keeping a finger on the pulse of the full ecosystem of our business community.

To gain more insight into the current state of nonprofits in Arlington, Return on Creativity’s podcast host Greg Kihlstrom spoke with Arlington Economic Development’s Senior Business Ambassador Sindy Yeh. Having a primary role in business retention as well as attraction, Yeh engages with all sizes of nonprofits and has seen the full array of pandemic impact on many organizations.  And just like for-profit companies, not all nonprofits are created equal. Some are actually thriving during the pandemic. But for many whose critical funding sources come from membership, events and donations, the bottom nearly fell out.

Larger organizations with more reserves to tap into were able to maintain programming. Staffing was more surefooted. However, many organizations were forced to downsize by laying off staff and dramatically cutting down on programs and services. It's now two years into the pandemic and nonprofits have had to adjust and pivot. Many are now just reemerging and are stabilizing.

As Yeh observes, while stabilizing for the "new normal," one of the most critical components for organizations is to reevaluate the core services and programs to its members and industry. As it’s often said, never waste a catastrophe.

To hear more about these essential industry sectors, listen to the full podcast conversation.