Recently, more than 400 nonprofits from around the state met in Missoula for the Montana Nonprofit Association’s annual conference. We came together to reflect on our individual impact, as well as our collective work for the common good. We talked about leadership, innovation, and how we can continue to better serve the people of our state. While we left with a stronger network of problem-solvers and leaders, a major takeaway was the grave realization of the impact of the current state budget crisis on Montanans we serve.

In Montana, United Ways serve as community leaders. We focus on education, financial stability and health – the building blocks for a good life and a strong community. Our work includes advancing student success, improving the lives of young children and families, preventing suicide, fundraising for fire victims, and supporting collectively the work of hundreds of local nonprofit programs.

The nonprofit community wants and needs to pitch in and be a part of the solution to our current crisis. We know that there is no way our sector can fully replace the role of a strong state government and sound budget. Charitable organizations and the nonprofit community cannot shoulder the additional weight of thousands of Montana families’ needs as the state reduces or eliminates resources and services. If these budget cuts go into effect, a generation from now Montana will look drastically different – and not for the better.

Foster children will not have the care and support they need because of eliminated health case management and supplemental payments for foster parents caring for infants and toddlers.

Montanans struggling with substance use disorders, such as opioid or meth addiction, and mental health issues, will not have affordable access to treatment and recovery.

Seniors and people with disabilities who want to live in their homes and communities will struggle to find caring and qualified people to assist them with getting dressed, going to the bathroom, and buying groceries.

Struggling families across the state won’t have access to the assistance they need if nearly 20 public assistance offices close in rural Montana.

Families with children who are born with developmental disabilities and medical risks will have significantly reduced financial support to help with the expensive services their kids need.

These scenarios only skim the surface of the budget cuts’ ripple effect.

At United Way, we focus on causes that will build stronger communities. We know that people are willing to give their time and resources to these causes. We know firsthand that Montanans are deeply generous people who look out for each other. That’s why we have faith that Montanans can step up to the plate and find the political will to raise state revenue to invest in our shared future.

We urge the Legislature and governor to come together and find new revenue to prevent these additional cuts and harmful impacts that will disadvantage Montanans from all walks of life for decades to come. Responsible revenue sources and ensuring that taxes are collected fairly and spent wisely, are approaches to help solve this budget crisis. We stand ready to meet with our lawmakers to help them figure out a fair path forward.

The theme of this year’s Montana Nonprofit Association conference was “Go Further Together.” We believe this to the core. We can go further together. And we must.

Danica Jamison is president and chief executive officer of Greater Gallatin United Way in Bozeman; Susan Hay Patrick is chief executive officer of United Way of Missoula County.