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Chris Bray: Engaging Hearts and Minds—and Wallets
By: Hilary Ingoldsby Whitesides
July 3, 2014
Chris Bray is the CEO of Utah Nonprofits Association (UNA) and also serves on many committees such as the United Way of Salt Lake board of directors, the Lt. Governor’s Commission on Service and Volunteers, the Governor’s Legislative Compensation Commission, the Utah Economic Council and the National Council of Nonprofits.
What first drew you to the nonprofit community?
I was raised by a family who was active at church and modeled the importance of service to others. When I graduated from college, I took a part-time job at Salt Lake Boys and Girls Club working with the pre-teens. I enjoyed working with disadvantaged youth and felt like I was making a positive difference every day. Early in my marriage, we had some tragic situations that impacted our family. I decided that if I needed to work, I wanted to spend my time making the world a better place. The nonprofit community is a perfect fit for me and I have loved serving in this field for over 28 years. In Utah, we have over 5,800 501(c) 3 nonprofits working to make the world a better place. It is an honor to work with these amazing organizations every day.
What do you see as your biggest challenge at the UNA?
Helping people understand the complexity of the nonprofit community. Although nonprofits do have many similarities to running a small business, we also need to involve people in the importance of mission, or “engage hearts.” Nonprofits also need to raise funds to accomplish their mission. Many don’t sell products or services, so we also need to involve volunteers and request funds, or “engage pocketbooks and time.”
Part of the work to help people understand the impact nonprofits make in the community is providing a clearer picture of the work being accomplished by the nonprofit community. At UNA we are taking on this difficult project and working to provide data and stories that show the impact … we impact lives in every community in Utah. UNA is beginning work with Southern Utah University to collect data that shows the impact of different sectors such as health, human services, environment, animals, arts, museums and others. This is difficult work to drill down into sector impact, but we want to show what holes would be left if nonprofits did not provide services and the cost savings to government, businesses and communities when they partner with nonprofits. We are working to provide the initial findings of this report to the community in 2015.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love knowing the work I am engaged in will make a difference and I enjoy the variety in my job. Right now I have at least 15 balls in the air. It is challenging, rewarding and, yes, stressful. I also enjoy meeting new people and have developed relationships with colleagues that I now count as friends. I am always learning new aspects about our community and opportunities to work together. Sharing and encouraging best practices, providing opportunities to learn from each other, encouraging deep collaboration is the work I love the most. I also enjoy traveling throughout the state to hear of the great work that is being accomplished.