Charities can't bear budget cut burdenDecember 17, 2010 @ 5:15 am (Updated: 1:37 pm - 3/28/11 )
As she delivered the budget's bad news this week, Governor Gregoire challenged charities to fill the gap.
"For the functions government no longer will be able to provide, we must turn to neighbors, private charities, faith-based organizations, and other local programs," she said. "Our communities, more than ever, will be asked to step up."
When she returned to her Seattle office after her budget address Wednesday, she found a group of people. "I could recognize a couple of them," Gregoire told KIRO Radio's Ross and Burbank.
They were members of the state's charity community. "'We heard your call, governor,' they said. 'We're here to be that safety net.'"
"That's the kind of Washingtonian spirit we need to get through this," Gregoire said.
But are our state's non-profits capable of this monumental task?
"The first thing I'd respond to, is, what does she mean, a lot of the burden?" said Norm Rice, Seattle's mayor from 1989 to 1997, now president of the Seattle Foundation, which directs donors' donations to various local charities.
"Clearly, the non-profit sector cannot be the replacement for the loss of state or federal dollars going on," he said.
It's just not big enough, said Jon Fine, the CEO of King County's United Way.
"Government spends way more than non-profits on health and human services," Fine said.
A United Way study, Fine said, found that 90 percent of that money is spent by government, while only 10 percent comes from the charity sector.
"What we do best is partner and find alliances to help that [government money] go further," Rice said. "It's not going to be a substitute for that loss."
Non-profits can maximize their impact by getting leaner, Rice said. "What we'll have to do in these times is look at how to consolidate."
The draconian budget cuts don't come as a shock, Fine said. The Puget Sound nonprofit community has been gearing up for a challenge. "One example is, we've got a great parent-child home program going which is an investment up front, which is going to cause lots of savings in spending over time," he said.
That program might help soften the damage early education cuts will wreak. But Rice said that's all nonprofits can do: soften the fall -- for some.
"There are going to be a lot of people who fall through the cracks," he said.
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