The WE in Southwest Pennsylvania: Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties

On our last leg of the Listening To PA – Listening Tour, PANO visited:


WP_20140710_022On July 10, we headed back to southwest Pennsylvania. Many, many thanks Jim Bendel , Executive Director,  Susan Acito, Program Director and Caleb Crousey, Development Officer,  from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County.  As a partner and friend of PANO, the Community Foundation set up a focus group that included 40 community leaders in Westmoreland County. The conversation centered around the following ideas and thoughts:


Individuals living in Westmoreland County stated that they loved their community because:

Committed, Generous, Humble People who Band Together to Help Each Other

  • People who make up the community
  • Help in community
  • Commitment
  • Community banded together to find common threads (e.g. proposed careless extraction)
  • Collaborative spirit within the community, seen by efforts of working  together toward a common goal
  • Board reaches decisions through consensus
  • People,  services and connections
  • Big warmth and kindness – random acts of kindness
  • Humility
  • Generosity of spirit and volunteering
  • Volunteering even when they have few financial resources

Community-Minded Organizations 

  • School systems and higher education opportunities—a lot of choice, a lot of excellence
  • Churches:  programming, outreach, solid values
  • Churches bond with communities and serve as connectors
  • Active service clubs who do a lot of extra active community work
  • Good support from city and county government

 Arts and History

  • Commitment to the arts in many forms: education, quality of life, family time, connection to heritage and history
  • Despite heavy interest in sports, more emphasis on history and the arts here
  • Pride in our heritage

 WP_20140710_018Natural Beauty, Environment and Outdoor Activities 

  • Environment
  • Gorgeous natural resources
  • Outdoor activities

 Traditional Values and Work Ethic 

  • Traditional values
  • Work ethic

Safe Place to Call Home 

  • Safe place to live
  • It’s Home


  • Geographic location – close to city and be in the foothills of the Laurel Highlands

Low Taxes 


DSCN0311Clean, Healthy Environment

  • Restored streams – fishable and swimmable
  • Potable water supplies for everyone
  • Clean air
  • Community Gardens
  • More accessible recreational areas
  • No litter
  • Better recycling
  • Look better along major corridors
  • Clean industry

Adequate, Affordable, Coordinated and Well -Funded Services 

  • No waiting lists for treatment or services
  • Access to all services needed
  • Lower health care costs
  • Every project is funded
  • Nonprofit services are well-coordinated
  • Collaborations
  • Great mental health services/parity (no stigma)
  • Sufficient quality child care

 Diversity Would be Valued

  • Increase diversity
  • Acceptance
  • Tolerance
  • Valued diversity
  • Family-centered community that includes all families

No Drugs or Crime

  • No gun violence
  • No violence
  • No drugs
  • No child abuse/neglect

 Industry Providing Living Wage Jobs

  • More employment
  • More industry
  • All jobs pay a living wage
  • No Poverty

 Healthy People Making Healthy Choices

  • Healthy children: physically, mentally
  • Health
  • Better food choices for everyone

 Youth Successfully Educated 

  • 100% graduation rate
  • No truancy
  • 0% teenage pregnancy

Coordinated, Consolidated  and Responsive Government

  • Cooperative effort between municipalities
  • Responsive legislators (all levels)
  • Fewer municipalities and school districts

 Affordable Housing

  • Adequate housing
  • Affordable housing

Coordinated and Implemented Planning

  • Coordinated community planning
  • Plans are implemented

 More Arts, Cultural Opportunities and Activities

 Affordable Transportation

 Nonprofits no Longer Needed

 More Philanthropic Giving


Following are the things we heard as issues from people living and working in Westmoreland County, listed in no particular order:

Community that Collectively Takes Action

  • More collaborative conversations/get information out to the public
  • Interesting question:  would other sectors answer the questions in the same way?
  • Come up with something we can actually do as a community to help get us there
  • Collaborative groups/say today—“I want to pull together all of the NPs that do the same thing in our community and see what we can do together”
  • Work together to harness our resources
  • Community foundation board challenging staff to make sure that collaboration happens in the community
  • Find the places that are successful and know how to do it to collaborate with communities that don’t know how to do it
  • What we can do immediately when we walk out of this room
    – Series of dialogues or community forums to create unanimity of vision
    – Use dialogue as a way to work through parochialism
    – Increase discourse
    -Find out how many in neighborhood are registered to vote

 An Integrated Infrastructure to Support Healthy Environments for Everyone

  • Bridge to finish trail—good infrastructure
  • Infrastructure of human services—in addition to child abuse, elder services, disability services, can’t effort to keep good people.
  • Safe havens for children when parents aren’t able to be there
  • Integrated health care (including mental health, addiction)
  • Second chances for people coming out of prison:  education, training while incarcerated
  • High quality of life for all
  • Giving recovering addicts a second chance
  • Support for veterans
  • Increased natural resources

Need Diverse Economy that Supports an Educated and Self-Sufficient Workforce

  • Money that helps create self-sufficiency
  • Different kinds of jobs
  • Economic revitalization by bringing money in from the outside:  tourism, etc.
  • Health care biggest employer, with nonprofits after that (no industry here)
  • Drug free and educated work force
  • Better compensated work force – what would it take to get there?
  • Raise minimum wage—public policy
  • Our commodity is people – place value on our people and how we care for them

 More Openness and Acceptance of Differences

  • More open
  • Changing perspectives regarding cultural competency
  • Acceptance
  • Education regarding differences
  • Help people overcome fear of differences
  • Attitude changes
  • Acceptance of different ideas and perspectives (another newspaper)
  • People willing to step up to create safe havens

Increased Parental Involvement 

  • Parental involvement in children’s lives
  • Children need to be taught to have courage and to stand up for values
  • Children need to be taught safe and acceptable ways to deal with disappointment, failure and stress
  • Parenting education
  • Parental support

Increased Visionary Leadership and Courage to Implement Change Efforts

  • Boards who are driven by broad visionary questions
  • More leadership in public & private sector driven by the four questions Anne asked
  • Courage to speak out and be a change agent and share your experience
  • Good implemented plan by good leaders who care about the community

 Changes in Public Policy and Tax Structure

  • Public policy that supports families, child care, etc.
  • Change the political culture to provide resources to sustain services
  • Fairer system of taxation
  • Change formulas for tax distribution

Increased Personal Responsibility and Involvement

  • Personal Responsibility
  • Citizens who are cognizant of laws, politically astute
  • People who vote and are aware and involved

 Personal and Community Pride

  • Pride in self, pride in community
  • Self-worth

Keep Younger, Educated People In the Community

  • Younger population—keep them living and working in our community
  • Keep educated citizens here

Teacher Education


Support for Taking Care of Animals


Provide Assistance with Advocacy Work

  • Political support:  policy changes and lobbying, advocacy
  • Lobbying, advocacy, public policy
  • Coordination of public policy issues: the go-to org for advocacy on various issues.
  • Provide updates to changes in the law that effect NPs
  • Advocacy and public policy
  • Looking at allocation of dollars

Identify Opportunities for Collaboration and Connections

  • PANO is in unique position to discern overlap in services so that we are not reinventing the wheel
  • Help to discern when a particular thing needs to go out of business/merge
  • Connecting the dots
  • Need for training and resources and understanding on how to collaborate better

Provide Training and Education

  • Reformat the Standards program into bites at a time
  • Bringing in trainers locally/regionally
  • Online training
  • Board training—boards around viability and sustainability of organizations

Provide a Central Repository of Information and Resources

  • Central repository of best practices
  • PANO could be a way to disseminate information about resources
  • Would like to see online technical assistance

 Provide Support to Advance Missions of Majority of Nonprofits

  • Support for foundations
  • How do you manage to provide services that take care of the majority
  • Provide support for orgs to advance missions today, meet current needs

 Work with Local Organizations

  • Bayer Center is great resource
  • Community foundation is in unique position to convene around issues



On July 11, we returned to Pittsburgh—the location of the first stop on the Listening Tour, meaning that we have made a full circle and many new friends. Pittsburgh was our final 2014 Listening Tour stop. Many thanks to Barbara Sieck Taylor, Executive Director of Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania, for hosting a group of passionate nonprofit leaders working in the Pittsburgh area. We also appreciated the time Barbara gave us afterward to discuss future possibilities. And finally, thanks much to Don Block from the Standards Certified Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council for giving us a tour of their facility and giving us yet another great example of how advocacy work can be done.


Individuals living in Allegheny County stated that they loved their community because:

Generous People, Unafraid of Change, Who Work Together for the Greater Community

  • A great deep tradition of philanthropy
  • Natural inclination to work together
  • Long tradition of connection
  • Fewer silos  and less competitive with each other than other communities
  • Connections: strong, deeply, rooted networks
  • People willing to work together.
  • People very solid—willingness to help
  • Great place for networking
  • Tenacity to create change, improve community
  • Small organizations, coalitions came together to solve problems and contribute to strong nonprofit presence in this community
  • Hard-working, looking for solutions–solution-focused

Readiness for Change and Willingness to Take Risks

  • Opportunity for change in Pittsburgh, and willingness to take some risk to make that happen
  • People are willing to face issues once we’re aware of them
  • People don’t run away from change
  • New attitude here: risk , change and innovation –comes a lot from philanthropy community
  • Now more than ever
  • Readiness to change due new political leadership with Mayor. We have pent-up desire to do something to help the city move forward.  At last we’re being asked.
  • I love the moment we’re in right now—so much potential. We are in a honeymoon phase with mayor.
  • Tremendous willingness to move forward on things that have been stuck for a long time.
  • Tipping point (energy industry will make a huge difference) for moving forward
  • Tipping point—used to be behind everything, now that’s changing,

Community Pride

  • People are celebrating Pittsburgh’s progress
  • Pride in city—living to see things better for the future
  • More to do here than there’s time to do everything
  • Pittsburgh has so many resources

Strong, Respected Nonprofit Sector

  • When we went through difficult times in 80s nonprofits looked towards community to find out what was needed.
  • NPs more of a presence in Pittsburgh
  • Recognition and respect of NPs here


Integrated, Connected Neighborhoods All Experiencing Positive Change 

  • Addressing gap in equity among neighborhoods
  • Change is happening, but not consistently across neighborhoods.  Tightly-knit networks are hard for others to penetrate.
  • Currently self-segregating racially and ethnically
  • Have much more integrated communities (racially & culturally)
  • Impacted by topography—people don’t want to cross a bridge or drive through a tunnel

Improved Education and Training

  • High quality education system
  • Enable those without high school diplomas to find good jobs
  • Education and getting people trained in certain areas where there is strong demand
  • Graduating with a high quality education

Enhanced Economy and Understanding about Need for All Jobs

  • More jobs to retain young people here
  • Broader, enhanced economic base (technology center)
  • Education around value of manufacturing jobs
  • NPs viable industry instead of just a leaching tax dollars—people don’t realize that

Improved Tax Structure 

  • Tax structure needs to be improved

Better Health Care for Everyone

 Better Collaborations to Address all Issues People Have in One Place

 Reduce Problems, not Just Address Symptoms


Following are the things we heard as issues from people living and working in Allegheny County, listed in no particular order:

Look at Collaborative Opportunities within and Across Sectors

  • Get connected with other organizations—include from all subsectors to address all aspects
  • Have to look at services and programs –what should really continue?
  • Work with for-profits for capacity building and expertise—in addition to money
  • Learn the value of being part of a larger organization
  • Highlight the good experiments with shared staff
  • Define better ways to collaborate—consider similar-sized and complementary organizations sharing resources, staff. Self-organized by CEOs. Training that sparked ideas.
  • Better internal communications to understand various partnerships that are already in place
  • Talk about partnerships and what works, what doesn’t
  • Examples of what other organizations are trying (e.g. Forbes Fund Circles)
  • Have to know people you’re working with: relationships
  • Real opportunity for everyone to share
  • See collaboration as a growth strategy

Elevate the Value of Nonprofit Sector and the Work Provided

  • Need to value sector and people working within it
  • Educate all sectors
  • Need compensation for full cost of providing services—flawed business model currently

 Focus on Broader Public Good vs. Organizational Sustainability

  • Focus on public good vs. organizational longevity—about services and not institution
  • Expand to regional view


Communicate the Value of the Sector 

  • Nonprofits to market themselves more aggressively re: impact on sector, etc.
  • Increase communication around learning about the sector
  • The nonprofit sector is an industry that is underrepresented in terms of understanding impact of sector and impact of funding cuts on communities
  • The sector is so important to the community especially as we face funding cut challenges. We have to have the highest standards and Standards for Excellence helps us to get there.
  • Our strengths include the commitment and emotional attachment  of those working in the sector and what we do with so little
  • Start coordinating around shared messaging/shared work
  • “Campaign for What Works” as something that should be statewide and not regional—common messaging.
  • Sector tagline: to unify

Provide Advocacy Coordination and Support

  • True advocacy.  We need a good  block of representation to be effective and actually get things done without having to sell out
  • Advocacy and communications role around helping lawmakers and the public understand the degree to which the nonprofit community delivers mandated services as a third arm of govt. We do not just have a  charitable relationship
  • Policy engagement: assist organizations in creating the legal and regulatory environment to strengthen the sector
  • Grantmakers are cautious about state politics. Possibilities for joint legislative agendas include: executive compensation, SB 4, property and sales tax, PILOTS
  • Coordinate  around the issues that get picked and what we make a priority and what we go after, instead of just reacting. (e.g. charitable tax deduction,  promoting and protecting giving. early warning system by having insiders in the capitol)
  • PANO could help extend regional initiatives throughout the state and capitalize on members reaching legislative folks in the district.  Confirmation of value of providing info and talking points so people reach legislators.
  • Identify and work with other statewide associations located in the capitol.

 Model Collaboration in Providing Services in Pittsburgh

  • In Pittsburgh, it would be helpful for PANO to partner with regional organizations for activities, memberships so there could be more participation.  Costs can be a challenge.
  • Assist in setting up technological collaboration with local/regional organizations.
  • Identify services and learning to share that could be more affordable.
  • There is value in collective enterprise.
  • PANO provides an opportunity for statewide collaboration. Many of us face the same issues. PANO is in unique position to encourage collaboration.

Be a Repository of Information 

  • Nonprofits are getting more involved in the research end and data could be a tremendous help.
  • Research around issues—connecting with universities to tap into expertise.
  • Bring together research already completed about factors that contribute to need.
  • Philanthropy community houses high-level expertise and can help sector with knowledge.  NP sector has the access to the impact. For effectiveness piece, both parts of the sector are integral.

Benchmark and Educate about Outcomes

  • Human services – benchmarks database
  • Educate on outcomes
  • Benchmarks to say that organizations programmatically and operationally
  • Economic and performance indicators

 Knit Together a Network of Grantmakers 

  • Grantseekers may not understand how much flexibility (in funding) private foundations make sure they have.
  • Knit together the network of grantmakers organizations
  • Questions different for grantmakers and nonprofits.
  • Role for PANO to help with grantmakers and sector collaboration.

 Change the Standards Focus from Institution to Community

  • The Standards focus institution building—accountability as opposed to community impact. The connection must be made.
  • Investment of human capital (volunteers and donors)  that is part of what holds the institutions back from making changes they need to make.  The stronger the organization, the stronger the culture.
  • Standards more mission and vision focused. What about moving from perspective of organization to community. Community needs to have certain attributes and structures and capabilities.

Identify New Ways of Doing Business, both Collaboratively and Otherwise

  • More flexibility about organizational containers—not one size fits all.
  • Shake out duplication and administrative costs, including back office collaboration—shared services, staff (HR, Ticket Sales, Bookkeeping).
  • How do you make a difference locally with the most effective use of resources? At what point is control not worth what it is costing?

Provide Resources to Smaller Organizations 

  • Meeting people where they are programmatically—small nonprofits.
  • Connections between people with expertise in field to help smaller, less-experienced information.


MapFinalThanks, again to Jim Bendel and Susan Acito from the Community Foundation of Westmoreland County and to Barb Sieck Taylor from Grantmakers of Western Pennsylvania for so graciously hosting focus groups on behalf of PANO.  And what an honor to interact with each person who took time from their incredible work to share the journey of their organizations! I am humbled by the warmth and well wishes that were bestowed on us.

And as always, a special thanks to Maher Duessel, CPAs for partnering with PANO to make this Listening Tour Possible!

We Together WILL create thriving communities!


If you want to check out the Listening Tour Results and see what we heard during our tour around the state:

At PANO, WE are not interested in PANO—we are interested in what WE can do with all of you.  Join us.  Join the WE!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s