Can You Hear Us Now?

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November 11, 2010; Source: Columbus Dispatch | Social service agencies in Columbus, Ohio are proud of what they do, and they’re going to make sure others know too. By being more vocal, especially within earshot of government officials, they hope to stave off potential cuts in public funding.

Spearheading the get-out-the-word campaign is the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County. The group’s executive director said this week, “The role of the Human Service Chamber is to change the conversation about human service agencies. We want people to know the impact of these organizations.” For instance, Williams claims that every dollar invested in the group’s member charities returns “anywhere from $3 to $10.”

Even though some wish their work itself would speak volumes to policymakers, especially at a time when many agencies are coping with increased demand for services, they can’t risk remaining silent. They also know they have to explain the downside of cutting funding. As Matt Habash, president of the Mid-Ohio Foodbank, notes, “We can’t just say, ‘Don’t cut, don’t cut, don’t cut.’ It’s a question of how we tell our stories better.”

Habash especially wants to public officials to know how fragile the social safety net already is that so many depend on. “If you have a fabric and pull a thread, what else falls apart?” Habash said. “In my case, you take food out of people’s mouths.”—Bruce Trachtenberg