by Jeff Zbar
Updated 2 yearss ago
When the United Way of Broward County and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance, along with 45 members of the Broward Business Council and city and county governments, launched the “United We End Home-lessness” campaign to fight chronic homelessness countywide, AutoNation established a $300,000 matching grant.
The grant for what organizers called a “collaborative communitywide initiative” came with a challenge to other businesses from the company’s chairman, president and CEO, Mike Jackson: “We must do more to create a home for all.”
James Donnelly, founder and CEO of the Castle Group and co-chairman of the Business Council, calls homelessness “a human tragedy” that demands business leaders facilitate solutions.
Whether for education, job training, affordable and workforce housing or homelessness, such giving and outreach is nothing new in Greater Fort Lauderdale. The county’s top six corporate donors — JM Family Enterprises, Rick Case Automotive Group, AutoNation, the Florida Panthers Foundation, City Furniture and Kaplan — gave roughly a combined $40 million in 2016, according to the South Florida Business Journal. In fact, three of South Florida’s top four donors are based in Broward County.
For those companies keen to get involved with groups in need, the Community Foundation of Broward has provided leadership on community solutions and connected people with causes since 1984. With more than 450 charitable funds representing $173 million, it has distributed $89 million during the past 33 years to address issues affecting seniors, the arts and the LGBTQ community.
The county’s network of charitable organizations has become a safety net for various populations and fosters continued economic growth, says Kathleen Cannon, president, CEO of United Way of Broward County. Not only do non-profits employ a large workforce, they help communities thrive by giving families the training, health care or economic boost they may need. Incomes and standards of living rise, family life improves and businesses see the benefit, she says.
“It’s really a cyclical event. If business and non-profits work together, everybody thrives,” Cannon says. “It’s a win-win. We’re constantly trying to show people that a little bit of effort and philanthropy helps you and your business.”