Nonprofit Committee hopes to help Shelby County residents access needed services

Memphis has thousands of nonprofit organizations, but we still have gaps between available services and the needs of the community.

“Nonprofits have become increasingly vital through the decades to provide safety net programs to vulnerable and marginalized communities as government programs have shrunk or been eliminated,” said Kevin Dean, executive director of Momentum Nonprofit Partners.

The newly minted Nonprofit Leadership Committee hopes to help close these gaps. Dean said it will provide insight into nonprofit trends, help participating nonprofits build their organizations, and make connections with other companies that can support the committee's vision and goals.

This leadership group will include four subcommittees and one core committee. The subcommittees are art and culture; children, youth, and education; workforce development; and health and human services.

Planned projects include:
Children, Youth and Education
  • Aligning early literacy resources, culminating in a Shelby County-inspired phonics book.
  • Creating a pilot program for virtual mental health services so kids who need help don’t have to travel to get it.
Arts and Culture
  • Hiring an Arts and Culture Liaison to build more coordination, funding opportunities, and a stronger arts sector.
  • Creating a large-scale arts awareness campaign to generate pride and enthusiasm for this sector that was hit the hardest amongst nonprofit organizations during COVID-19.
Health and Human Services
  • Improving awareness of and access to mental health resources for underinsured and uninsured people.
  • Creating a pilot program to increase access to interpreters, removing language as a barrier to services for those who are not English-proficient.
Workforce Development
  • Developing a public-facing online screening tool to connect residents with the many available services and choose the ones that best fit their needs.
  • Hosting a virtual job fair where residents can learn about job training, education, certification, and job placement programs.

Chairpersons of each subcommittee will form the core committee. Also serving as core committee members will be Shelby County Manager of Community Partnerships Janet Lo, along with representatives from the mayor's office and Momentum.

“Many of us are part of long-term planning projects that go on for years and make incredible impacts,” said Lo. “Our focus has been [chipping] away at one big problem that’s achievable in a year.”

The core group will meet four times a year to identify and prioritize their goals. They’ll also create an annual report for the public that offers suggestions and solutions.

“Shelby County Government and our county’s nonprofit organizations share many common goals,” said Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris. “That’s why we have brought together over 200 nonprofit agencies to form the Nonprofit Leadership Committee.

Participation in the new committees will be voluntary for any active nonprofit with 501(c)(3) status in Shelby County. Each organization will be allowed one representative.
“Together, we can improve collaboration and communication,” Lo said, “and help address long-standing issues with actionable, common-sense solutions.”
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Read more articles by Jeff Hulett.

Originally from Chicago, Jeff moved to Memphis in 1990 not really knowing much about the south. In fact, the first week he lived here he was suspended from school for not saying, "yes ma'am" and "no ma'am." Jeff has since developed a passion for Memphis and especially Memphis music. A member of several bands including Snowglobe and Me & Leah, Jeff works as a communications consultant with many non-profits including Playback Memphis, Church Health, Room in the Inn-Memphis and BLDG Memphis. Jeff lives in the Vollintine Evergreen neighborhood with his wife and two daughters.