Thère du Pont calls on businesses to rethink support for nonprofits at NCC Chamber dinner

By Ken Mammarella
Special to Delaware Business Times

The president of Delaware’s largest philanthropic organization Monday challenged attendees of the 96th annual dinner of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce to rethink their support for nonprofits.

“It’s your job to bring your personal experiences to bear and ask the right questions,” said Thère du Pont, Longwood Foundation president.

He urged business owners to hold nonprofits to be “more efficient and more effective” and adapt  the outcomes-based criteria used by successful for-profit businesses.

He offered two models: Collaborative Effort to Reinforce Transition Success, a Newark nonprofit led by Vivian Turner, is leading a measured and evolving approach to serve adults with severe disabilities. The other is the Delaware Theatre Company, where Bud Martin turned around an organization pulling back into one growing in subscribers, donors, ticket sales and the potential for a revenue stream by developing shows for Broadway.

He asked those on nonprofit boards to add nonprofits’ goals to their work performance objectives. “Take it that seriously.”

Du Pont also called for supporting Pay for Success, a legislative proposal to allow private investors to profit from the work of nonprofits.

Matthew Parks of Discover announced a $25,000 donation to the Community Education Building, a Wilmington effort created by the Longwood Foundation.

“Philanthropy and government are not going to be the white knight,” du Pont said. “You and your leadership need to be more creative.”

The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce announced three awards on Monday:

• Ambassador of the Year Award to Esther Rich, of Special Touch Card Creations, for being a business ambassador for the chamber.

• Lifetime Achievement Award to Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, with the chamber program citing her focus on “improving the lives of working families, children, women and seniors.”

• Wallace Johnson Award for Community Service to J.C. Boggs, a partner in the international law firm of Kirk & Spalding for his legal work, board leadership of Jobs for Delaware Graduates and other endeavors. The 40-year-old Jobs for Delaware Graduates progra, has become a national model, copied in 34 states, he said.

The dinner’s theme of “building strong communities” was supported by five videos, with Delmarva Power’s “stories that matter” emphasizing literacy and STEM learning. Highmark highlighted millions in grants and employee volunteering. AAA called out its work on safety “behind the wheel and on the road.” M&T Bank detailed its support of a Wegmans program to hire adults with intellectual disabilities. TD Bank showcased its outreach and participation in community events.

Board chairman Timothy Boulden praised Texas Roadhouse in Bear for $75,000 in community contributions; A.Blake for sharing her knowledge of blogging; Harvey Hanna for $161,882 in contributions, especially for winter coats for needy children near its Newport headquarters; Sherm’s Catering for serving Thanksgiving meals to 1,000; the Grand for running programs that served 35,000 children; Placers for supporting adaptive bikes to children with special needs; and his own Boulden Brothers for nurturing “a culture of giving and caring.

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