The Valley Economic Summit this past week, of which you see complete coverage in this issue, had a forum that had not been done before ?a discussion of how charities and businesses can work together. I was happy to see this in the program because it? not only timely ?many non-profits need lots of help these days with donations down ?but also because this is an issue that leaves a lot of room for creativity and opportunity on both sides. First of all, the reason I? writing about non-profits here and the reason the event contained this forum is because business and non-profits are really joined together. Most non-profits provide social services and companies provide business services. But they both fill in the gaps for each other. Businesses provide jobs and goods and services but non-profits provide help when companies experience layoffs. Businesses in turn prop up non-profits with financial donations and volunteers. Both sides do some heavy lifting and the lifting has never been as heavy as it is now. At the forum, executives of local non-profits gave some suggestions on how organizations in their realm and businesses can help each other out. Non-profits can provide training for people who want to pursue a certain career. For example, panelist Marianne Haver Hill said her organization MEND (Meet Each Need With Dignity) has certain positions such as food-service preparers and dental assistants that can provide experience for people studying those fields. Some non-profits also offer child-care and counseling services that can help reduce the stress for working people. In fact, you can get most social services through a variety of charities in the area. In turn, the panelists offered suggestions of how companies can help charities at relatively low or no cost. If you buy in bulk, buy a little extra for a charity. Make volunteerism part of your company culture and promote it aggressively within your business. Even go so far as to base employee bonuses on how much they?e involved in non profits. Company executives, the panelists said, can do volunteer work at non-profits and not have to do manual labor or unchallenging work. Many charities need help in areas such as PR, finance or planning. Simple things such as offering your conference room for non-profit use were also discussed. These are fairly easy things, it seems. And I believe that every business no matter how small should do at least one of these things. Many non-profits are in dire financial straits these days and some of them will go under. If every business could do just one small thing for the charity of their choice I know it would prevent the failure of these organizations. How about the creation of new purely local coalitions of businesses that get together to provide money, time and other in-kind support to non-profits. There is strength in numbers. If a collection of businesses in a particular neighborhood could focus on routinely helping their local charities many of the non-profits?problems could be eliminated. If enough businesses got together in these efforts then it wouldn? cost each company very much. It may only cost them their time. The need for merger of some non-profits was brought up. Maybe that is the answer for some of them. But I think tightly focused business help from local coalitions could be a good alternative. Business Journal Editor Jason Schaff can be reached at (818) 316-3125 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .