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Nonprofit programs in struggle to survive

| Sunday, Oct. 17, 2010, 12:00 p.m.

UMOJA African Arts Company may dance into oblivion.

"We don't know if this will be UMOJA's last year," said Darcel Madkins, president and CEO of the Downtown group. "We're really hanging on by a thread."

UMOJA's money woes are typical of many small nonprofits. A survey by the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management released to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review shows 55 percent of charities with budgets under $1 million aren't expecting their budgets to grow next year. Larger organizations were more optimistic.

"Many of the smallest have done everything they can possibly do at this point, and they're hunkered down, trying to hold on and stay where they are," said Scott Leff, associate director of the Bayer Center at Robert Morris University. "There's nothing left to cut, and they don't have capacity to grow."

Foundations, the state and the Allegheny Regional Asset District have either slashed or yanked UMOJA's funding. As a result, its budget has shrunk from $187,000 two years ago to $60,000 now.

The group is so starved for cash that Madkins had to take a full-time job outside the company. The troupe, which used to perform five days a week in schools, now goes only if it has cash.

UMOJA was given a building in Swissvale that it had planned to use as its home. But the group is so poor, Madkins said, it cannot afford to renovate the building. UMOJA may have to sell it just to survive.

"I really would like to merge with another organization," she said.

Crisis Center North, a nonprofit group in Perrysville with an annual budget of $615,000, serves 2,000 victims of domestic violence.

"At the moment, I'm not very optimistic about the economy turning around," said Grace Coleman, executive director of the center. "I'm worried about ongoing cuts nonprofits are facing."

In response to state budget cuts, the center made some hard choices.

"Rather than lose a service to victims or a coworker, the staff decided to have everyone take a voluntary 8 percent pay cut," she said.

Coleman still had to cut one administrator.

Additional Information:

Economic forecast

Fifty-five percent of charities with budgets of less than $1 million aren't expecting their budgets to grow next year; 45 percent do.

In contrast, 33 percent of those with budgets greater than $5 million expect smaller budgets, while 67 percent predict larger budgets

Source: Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management, Robert Morris University

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