Human Services Capitalization Pilot

to five human services organizations throughout the Pittsburgh region, a $1.5 million investment

When approaching problem-solving, the late Henry L. Hillman would often start with thinking about how innovation can help drive action. Used well, it enables leaders and organizations to think ahead, make data-driven decisions, and take risks necessary to grow.

It’s fitting, then, that fostering innovation and leveraging its transformative capacity are central goals of a new pilot supported by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation. Launched in 2019 and building on the positive results of a local initiative focused on arts organizations, the project issued a challenge to necessary, but financially fragile, human services organizations in the region asking each to imagine how an infusion of extraordinary financial capital could help to not only stabilize—but ideally evolve—the way they do business in their respective fields of work.

This opportunity follows years of cuts in state and federal funding for human services—a vast field linked by a dedication to helping individuals and communities function as effectively as possible. Across the nation and throughout the Pittsburgh region, impacted organizations have responded by trimming their budgets and committing, again and again, to do more with less. In this environment, transformation and its accompanying risk of failure become a luxury that many leaders cannot afford to entertain.

Against this backdrop, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation moved to invest in the future potential of an organization—not a specific grantee project. It chose five local nonprofits, which will each receive up to $380,000 including grants and technical assistance of a financial consultant to take a rare chance to step back, invest in innovation and strengthen their organization’s operations and capacity to serve the community.

Meet the Grantees

Five nonprofits each received approximately $380,000 invested over a 3 -year period, including the assistance of a financial consultant, as part of the Hillman Human Services Capitalization Project.

They are:

1.   Womanspace East, Inc., which helps women and families facing homelessness find long-term housing.

2.   Center for Hearing & Deaf Services, which supports residents throughout the Pittsburgh region who are deaf, hard of hearing or have other communications needs.

3.   Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, which aids individuals with barriers to employment in launching meaningful careers in the food service industry.




4.   Ursuline Support Services, which assists adults and seniors who are struggling with a range of challenges, from financial hardship to emotional neglect.

5.    Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Allegheny County, which represents children suffering neglect and abuse in order to protect their best interests.

Funding in Focus

Womanspace East (WSE), Inc. serves local women with children who are in crisis with no safe place to call home. In its 44-year history, the nonprofit has evolved, changing its address, services and scope numerous times. “No matter what the change called for, WSE was able to adapt,” says Toni Pendleton, the organization’s executive director.

Most recently, WSE expanded its emergency shelter operations to accommodate up to 26 families at a time. And now, with support from the Hillman Human Services Capitalization Project, the organization is looking to transform again. This time, the end goal is enhanced operational capacities, increase public support, as well as stewarding investments in the maintenance of its facilities so that WSE can continue serving women and children in need for decades to come.