Shining a Spotlight on Central Ohio’s Dynamic Nonprofit Sector

“I had no idea.”

We’d just completed the tour of Columbus Humane’s brand new Essential Care Center and my guest was astounded at the programs and services we offered for people. Yes, people. We’re an animal welfare organization, certainly, but we’re also a human service agency. In fact, when we were founded in 1883, we primarily focused on women, children, and carriage horses, and we continue that strong commitment to the wellness of humankind even today.

We employ social workers. We’re a law enforcement agency. We are mandated reporters of child abuse and elder abuse. Our programming directly impacts human health, wellness, and workforce development. We partner extensively with CHOICES, Jewish Family Services, Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio, YWCA, and more. We even pay the first month’s rent and pet deposit for families fleeing violence, in addition to boarding and providing veterinary care for the pets while the human family members safely transition.

However, we’re not all that unique. We’re special (of course!), but we are not alone in offering a wide array of lifesaving and enhancing programs. Many Central Ohio nonprofit organizations are using incredibly scarce resources to keep our community afloat in myriad ways with creative, often unexpected, programs and services. For example, did you know that:

  • Flying Horse Farms offers an amazing camp experience for children with serious illnesses with a focus on behavioral and mental health.
  • Star House offers extensive mental health services for young people experiencing homelessness?
  • Matriots offers programming for the whole community to demystify how women can participate in politics—not just as candidates, but also as voters, volunteers, and even campaign managers?
  • Furniture Bank of Central Ohio offers a downsizing service that provides labor and packing materials?
  • Bridgeway Academy offers a transitional program for students over 18 years of age that provides vocational training for students who aren’t yet ready for traditional graduation?

We are all giving, stretching, and expanding our services in incredible ways to make critically needed changes and advancements in quality of life, housing, equity, racial justice, education, healthcare, and in infinitely more areas. Central Ohio is truly fortunate to have a robust and active nonprofit sector with dynamic leaders. But we can’t afford for all of our incredible programming to fly under the radar and be a pleasant surprise to our community.

Nationwide, fewer donors are giving, and even fewer community members understand who nonprofit organizations are, what we do, and how we’re funded. We’re all at risk when our community doesn’t know or understand the reach and depth of our work. An April 2023 study released by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy showed that just 5.4% of survey respondents reported: “they or someone in their immediate family had received services from a charitable organization or nonprofit in the past year.” Given that every single member of our community benefits from and is directly served by dozens, if not hundreds, of nonprofit organizations here in Central Ohio, we’re in trouble.

So, here’s my ask. Please talk openly and frequently about the nonprofit organizations you know and value. Celebrate their victories and amplify their messages. Share their impactful work and all the ways they enrich your life and the lives of those around you. Shout it from the rooftops because we all have a lot to lose if nonprofit organizations don’t get the recognition and support that they need. With volunteerism and charitable giving on the downswing, we need everyone to see us and support us. Seriously, right now.

Let’s start by giving a shoutout in the comments to organizations you love, like I did above. Lift up a program you cherish or share a service your neighbors might not know about. Imagine how great your favorite organizations will feel to be recognized!

Now, that will make for a truly pleasant surprise.

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