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Q&A: United Way of Southern Nevada President & CEO Julian High on Nonprofit Management and Corporate Social Responsibility

Julian High began his career as the first African American serving as Director of Community and Government Affairs for a gaming corporation. With decades of experience in nonprofits and for-profit organizations, Julian brings transformative change as United Way of Southern Nevada's President & CEO.

Courtesy of Julian High

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Julian High is the President and CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that believes that everyone deserves a roof over their heads, a good job, and access to a quality education.

With deep roots in Las Vegas, Julian began his career as the Director of Community and Government Affairs for Sahara Gaming Corporation. And he was the first African American to serve in this role for a gaming corporation.

With decades of experience in driving change and raising the bar for nonprofits and for-profit organizations, Julian High shared his insights with us about nonprofit management and corporate social responsibility.

What drew you to United Way of Southern Nevada and how did you get involved in the non-profit industry?

My involvement in the nonprofit industry began in my role as the Director of Community and Government Affairs for the Sahara Gaming Corporation. As the first African American to serve in this role, I was able to break new ground and align the philanthropic efforts of the Sahara with the local issues Southern Nevadans, including my friends and family, were facing at that moment in time and continue to face today.

When I left Las Vegas to the East Coast, I continued to pursue roles in the nonprofit sector that empowered and provided the tools to those who need it most. I led the national communication efforts to secure employment opportunities at the National Industries for the Blind. I also had the privilege of being the Director of Diversity and Inclusion and Human Resources for the Human Rights Campaign, to ensure our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters have the freedom to live with equality under the law.

I am deeply grateful to continue my journey in the nonprofit sector with United Way of Southern Nevada, which is the premier convener and collaborator of nonprofits in Southern Nevada.

What are your goals for the organization?

Our goal for this next year is to raise $17.1 million so we can continue to support the important work we have been doing in the Southern Nevada Community for the past six and half decades.

Julian High and community partners (Photo from United Way of Southern Nevada)

How can businesses increase their corporate social responsibility and support non-profits such as United Way?

Southern Nevada is incredibly blessed to have a community of creative, dedicated and innovative entrepreneurs. The business community has long been a very good friend to United Way of Southern Nevada. Throughout my time in southern Nevada, I have often marveled at the generosity of the business community. The region’s position as a leading hub of the tourism industry is a miraculous and enduring achievement for past, present and future business leaders. As we emerge from the pandemic, it is abundantly clear that corporate and small businesses have an increasingly larger role to play in maintaining and improving the social construct of this community.

We saw extraordinary demonstrations of the business community’s commitment to helping those who need it most during the pandemic and throughout other challenging times during our city’s history. The new challenge is to look courageously at the lessons learned and implement strategies that will holistically solve problems for those in our community most in need of essential resources. Our city needs local businesses to step up now more than ever, and this is a clarion call for the business community that has been incredibly blessed by the caring spirit of Las Vegas. I know the business community will rise to the challenge.

United Way of Southern Nevada offers various opportunities for the business community to give back to those most in need. From community fundraising campaigns hosted in partnership with UWSN, to group volunteering opportunities, we can help local businesses leverage both their dollars and time to make the most impact in our beloved city.

What are three challenges you’ve faced thus far?

Becoming the President and CEO of United Way of Southern Nevada has been a true blessing however, there are some challenges that I have faced along my journey. After living on the East Coast for two decades, one of the things necessary is learning the dynamics of the new Las Vegas. The second challenge I have overcome was my transitioning into the role of a CEO for a nonprofit for the first time in my career and adapting to my new responsibilities as the leader of the premiere convener and collaborator in the nonprofit sector of Las Vegas. The third challenge I have found, is not having enough time. I want to hear as many stories as I can and meet with as many people who are searching for the answers to our community’s most pressing problems. I have found that to solve this challenge, I have expanded my day to meet and connect with people over meals which I love to do.

What do you see happening in the next 3 years for non-profits?

I see greater diversification of revenue streams all over the non-profit sector. I see the maturation and sophistication of the people and systems that run current nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofits have shifted their focus to online giving, fundraising through social media, and partnering with businesses to expand their corporate social responsibility efforts. There will be a greater reliance on technology to solve problems than we are aware of today and it’s going to be more expensive.

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