Health giants could learn collegiality from smaller nonprofits

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There are many things to be regretted and abhorred by the ongoing battle between the two behemoths Highmark and UPMC. But the thing I regret and abhor most vehemently is the black eye being assigned to all nonprofits in our region.

The vast majority of all nonprofits in our region are small to mid-size organizations deeply committed to their missions of service. Their resources are very limited and their focus is on providing those services in the most economical and careful way possible. They do not focus on maximizing affluence but on maximizing the services that constitute their mission.

These entities are led by talented people committed to the work of their organizations; the vast share of them bring down salaries under six figures.

Last week I attended a memorial service for Molly Knox. She and I had each led agencies in this community providing closely related services. In this instance we could have developed a toxic relationship, vying for clients and service territory. We chose not to take that route, instead recognizing that there was plenty of need out there and that we could choose to be colleagues rather than competitors. That turned out to be a choice that served both agencies as well as our clients.

Though the scale of our agencies and the number of our clients was smaller, there is a moral to be found here, one that applies to our two local giants. Both have lost their way, forgetting their mission and seeking their own pre-eminence. The community needs better. The good name of nonprofits deserves better.

The writer is former executive director of the Center for Victims.

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