November brings thoughts of family and friends and feasts and fun, Black Friday discounts and so much more. Angelinos have much to be grateful for including one of the most vibrant economies in the world: rich, diverse, innovative. We need not go to the world, rather the world looks to us for inspiration given our world class universities, museums, galleries, hospitals and performance halls. A community driven by the desire to find solutions.

But there is another Los Angeles, a shadow Los Angeles. We catch brief glimpses of this other city when we walk past a man sleeping on sidewalk near the theatre, or hear the psychotic woman raging at her voices as she steers her grocery cart down the street. This is the LA of overcrowded jails and the untreated mentally ill; of primary and secondary schools that work for some, but not for others. Underneath the freeways dwell the forgotten, the recently incarcerated, relapsed substance abusers, the laid off worker and those simply hiding from abusive parents, rival gangs, or other deadly threats. Though we dare not say it too loudly, Los Angeles leads the nation in those areas as well.

What do we make of our Jekyll/Hyde metropolis? First, let’s avoid simplistic answers. We have an abundance of “good” for profit corporations that invest in public benefit efforts and even a few “evil” nonprofits that are nothing short of charlatans. When we combine the local corporate and nonprofit talent we clearly have the intellectual capital to solve complicated problems, so let’s set a deadline and then get busy.

We have eleven years until the Summer Olympics in 2028 and over 10,000 nonprofit organizations working every day to address a variety of problems across our community. Choose a cause that is meaningful to you and let them know you are ready to help. Nonprofit organizations are essentially businesses with an additional bottom line and your professional skills are highly valuable. Donate AND offer to share your knowledge and experience in strategic planning, marketing, finance, HR, or technology to support area nonprofits – you will be amazed how much you have to offer that can make a meaningful difference.

November 28th is Giving Tuesday – a day for giving back. A decade from now Los Angeles will remain a thriving city with a vibrant economy. Let’s show the world the best we have to offer as innovators, making it a great city for all who live, work, compete and play in LA. Everyone has something to give – let’s get to work!

Regina Birdsell is President of the Southern California Center for Nonprofit Management.

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