Demand accelerates for help from nonprofits

    The stagnant economy has increased demand for the services Pennsylvania’s nonprofit organizations provide. But according to a new report from the United Way of Pennsylvania, two cycles of budget cuts have forced charities to trim services and turn away clients.

    The survey of 1,000 Pennsylvania nonprofits revealed a 50 percent increase in the number of people who looked to charities for help for the first time.

    Tony Ross, the president of the United Way of Pennsylvania, said the number of unemployed and uninsured people asking for help has climbed, as well.

    “Many of my colleagues from across the commonwealth report that many of our friends and neighbors that were once financial contributors to charities are now actually seeking services from those exact same charities,” he said. “To put it another way, the donor has become the client in many cases.”

    Funding cuts hurt charities’ abilities to respond, according to the survey. Seven in 10 nonprofits lost funding over the last two years; 34 percent had to turn away people asking for help; and more than 60 percent had to lay off staffers.

    That’s partially because private funding didn’t fill the gap left by a decline in state support, according to Ross.

    “Nongovernmental sources of funds–private foundation grants, individual donations, things of that nature–have remained flat or decreased since 2008, for most nonprofit organizations. That is the case for 77 percent of the respondents in our survey,” he said.

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget keeps nonprofit funding relatively level. Leslie Osche, the executive director of Butler County’s United Way, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette she was “pleasantly surprised” by that portion of the spending plan, though Ross called other budget line items “ugly.”

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