Former Parkite to head statewide nonprofit
July 11, 2007
If Parkites don’t recognize the Utah Nonprofit Association’s (UNA) new executive director, many could almost certainly place his voice.
Don Gomes moved to Park City 30 years ago to ski, sing and play his guitar. He remembered his first winter here, one the worst snow seasons the town has seen.
"When the first snow came, people danced in the streets," he said.
Gomes would spend the next 25 years entertaining and educating residents. He became a popular radio show host on KPCW and spent three years as the programming director during the 1980s. He later steered his passion to the stage as an executive director of Egyptian Theater with current Parkite Teri Orr.
"It was a busy time for the theater, and a fun time to start the program," he said.
Gomes left Park City six years ago after marrying hospital administrator Annie Holt. The couple moved to Indianapolis and San Antonio before returning to Utah early this year. Gomes will now apply his experience in business and community development to the state’s largest nonprofit membership organization as head of the UNA. Few candidates could have submitted more qualifications.
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In addition to his artistic career on stage and on the airwaves, Gomes has also worked in funds acquisition and nonprofit organization. He earned an MBA from Westminster College and has taught nonprofit management at Westminster College, Marian College in Indiana and Texas Tech University in San Antonio, where he helped revamp the school’s funding process.
Gomes avoided a single, binding career, preferring instead to hold part-time jobs and consulting positions until he found the perfect opportunity. A friend once said told him he didn’t have a job he had "jobettes."
"It’s true," Gomes laughs. "But I always said that if the right job presented itself, I’d go that route."
A position in nonprofit management seems a natural fit for Gomes, who believes that nonprofits are "the fabric of community character." The organizations fill a void that businesses can’t, he says.
"You’re not going to hear people saying, ‘we got great streets out here,’ or, ‘boy, our garbage pick-up is supreme.’ It’s the community organizations at bring people together and bring out issues."
The Utah Nonprofit Organization offers membership to nonprofits of any designation and, as stated in its mission statement, strives to "strengthen and promote the success of Utah’s nonprofit community." The UNA assists nonprofits by providing networking opportunities, advice and cost-saving services. Gomes hopes to extend the organization’s reach outside Salt Lake City, where most of the organization’s members operate.
"We want to make sure people are aware of the opportunities they have through the UNA," he said. As executive director, Gomes will also hear members’ concerns, which often involve two major issues: board control and fund raising. Gomes says an open mind is key in helping organizations to raise money.
"Traditional is a dangerous word," he said. "From a fund-raising standpoint, we have to ask what the donors’ need is. We have to strike a balance." Gomes pointed to the National Ability Center (NAC) as a successful model for other nonprofits to emulate.
"The NAC’s choice has been to maintain flexibility and nimbleness. It’s the notion of individual giving we’re a generous nation."
Despite having sworn to maintain a "jobette" lifestyle indefinitely, Gomes says he is committed to his new position.
"I’m in this for the long haul," he said. "Bring on the challenge. It presents such variety, so many directions to move in. I think I’ll have enough to keep my attention. I have no concept of retirement," he said.
"Gomes’ top three goals"
Increase UNA membership by 10 percent each year, until the organization has reached 95 percent of Utah’s nonprofits.
Develop the next generation of leadership, including nonprofit management education.
Motivate college students to prepare for sitting on nonprofit boards.