When asked about adequate funding, she replies “We’ve never been adequately funded for capacity.  We’ve never been able to rise to the level of operations, given access to finances and information about contracts.”  This notion brings to question sustainability. Foundations are experiencing funding fatigue and cannot commit to funding forever, nor can they fund everybody.

“That’s fine”, says Dianne. “Provide information to afford opportunities to generate access.  Without being in those circles of power and control, we are not privy to that information.” Dianne goes on to say, “We need diversification of revenue and assistance in doing so.”

Carol Washington, Executive Director of Northside Community Alliance echoes the same sentiments regarding funding. “Never enough.  The need always outweighs the resources.” Carol is also in agreement with Dianne regarding not being funded forever and sustainability. “Give a chance for the program to work with adequate funding up front and allowing the use of non restrictive dollars.  We then have the capacity to build sustainability.”  Carol goes on to say, with limited access we’ll continue to lag.

When speaking with all three leaders in this article and other community based leaders, the lack of cultural understanding and diversity was greatly highlighted.  Dianne stated, “We’re not looked at as equals.  I’ve been talked down to on more than one occasion.”

Carol believes the lack of cultural sensitivity is profound.  “There is a lack of understanding.  The discussion is not open enough.”

Other than being Black led organizations, the commonalities in these agencies are they all have mid size budgets, high risk minority populations, with limited infrastructure capacity.

Additionally, born out of grassroots efforts, the Boards don’t possess the same clout or entrée to circles of power and influence.  In constant catch up mode, how do you not only compete, but continue being an asset to so many?  When faced with these challenges, where do we find answers?

It is VERY difficult, even perceived as “dangerous” to have this conversation.  The thought is people will be sanctioned, relationships damaged and even more doors closed. Perceived or real, the notion of not being able to move forward in ways that not only satisfy those with the ability to provide revenue and resources do exist.

The toughest part of all is to acknowledge the “isms” and privilege….or lack thereof, at the core of these “notions”.

One piece that makes it difficult to address the privilege and “isms” attach to the biases (perceived and/or real) is the association of blame, followed by shame. However, without the acknowledgements and conversations, we’ll never move beyond the disparities.  Just as important as the larger, mainstream institutions, community based non-profits are assets and need protecting.  So what do we do?  Stay tuned.


Editor’s Note: Bernadette Turner, M.S. Leadership, is executive director, Addison Behavioral Care. She can be reached at bturner@abcpgh.org.

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