Point Park fountain
At Point Park on a Saturday night. Photo by TH Carlisle

Got an opinion about those left behind in the new wave of prosperity in Pittsburgh?

The Pittsburgh Foundation wants to hear from you.

As part of their 100 Percent Pittsburgh—an initiative to devote more resources to the 30% of the population in this region that has been left behind in the latest wave of prosperity—the foundation is conducting extensive research to find out how the community feels about such matters.

One result? The “Making Pittsburgh better for all: a short survey” that has already been sent to donors and grantees and is now offered to the public.

That means you.

The survey is short—it took us less than 10 minutes—addressing questions such as who do you think has and has not benefited from the recent prosperity in Pittsburgh? And how would you be willing to help?

“When we started out over a year ago with 100 Percent Pittsburgh, two things struck us,” says Maxwell King, president and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation. “That we should be careful not to do everything at once and quickly, and the second thing: we had to really be well grounded in what the community thinks and feels and wants—careful not to make that classic foundation mistake of getting a few experts in and we understand how to proceed.”

From the beginning, he says, they tried to get as much information from the community—“at how they see poverty and people struggling with economic instability and what they think is really needed.

“Community foundations are always doing a lot of grantmaking in this arena,” King points out. While historically 50% of the Pittsburgh Foundation’s unrestricted grantmaking went to vulnerable populations, that amount will now increase. “We don’t have a goal but it’s my belief that we will get to 70 percent of our work, our grantmaking, within five, maybe ten years,” he says.

King believes this is a trend nationwide. “We started working in the fall of 2014 focusing on vulnerable populations and so much on the ground research. A lot of foundations are focused now in this area,” he says, citing “most famously the Ford Foundation in New York with global poverty.”

The key question is, “how do vulnerable populations get to participate in the national prosperity?” asks King. “You see it in the national campaigns now.”

It’s too early to judge how effective recent efforts have been since it’s “only in the last year, year and a half that a lot of foundations are focusing on that. Remember, America’s been trying to figure out how to deal with poverty for 200 years. Sometimes we make progress, sometimes we regress. Historically the last 40 years have been really bad with no rise in income in the lower 30 percent of the population. Some of the income gains reversed a bit in the past year. One year out of 40 is not a trend.”

We’re not pledging to eradicate poverty, he clarifies. “We know there’s a limit to how much difference we can make.” He pauses, adding,  “I really hope we can make a difference.”

Want to make a difference? Start here and take the survey.

The staff at NEXTpittsburgh writes about the people driving change in the region and the innovative and cool things happening here.