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Utah's nonprofit agencies are running on empty and "too many" are on the brink of collapsing, the authors of a statewide survey argue.

The new report from the Community Foundation of Utah says charitable organizations are strained from the loss of donations and drained by the needs of a population reeling from a troubled economy.

Fraser Nelson, the foundation's executive director, presented the survey results to lawmakers on Thursday and asked them to create tax incentives for people or corporations that donate to nonprofits.

"Forty-six percent [of the surveyed nonprofits] have lost a major funding source or donor since January," noted the report, delivered to the Social Services Appropriation subcommittee.

Utah has more than 5,000 registered public charities — more than one-third of which offer health or social services to the needy.

"Giving is way down," said Nelson. "Nearly half of the agencies say they will not have the resources in the next year to meet the demand of their community."

The report showed 42 percent of the agencies surveyed started the year with three months or less of operating capital on hand, and 27 percent ran a deficit in 2010, she added.

"It is really sad, and it comes as the needs are rising, "said community advocate Pamela Atkinson, who was a member of the Utah Advisory Commission to Optimize State Government, sponsored by Gov. Gary Herbert.

Atkinson believes the tax legislation may get support when nonprofits show lawmakers that their agencies do not duplicate services, merge when possible and clearly demonstrate the need.

But the subcommittee leadership said this is not the time to give tax breaks.

"It's great in concept, "said Rep. David Clark, a Santa Clara Republican who is co-chairman of the subcommittee. "But the timing is wrong."

Clark argues taking tax money out of the public coffers would probably not gain traction during a session in which lawmakers are already considering across the board cuts in state government, including social services.

The foundation's survey has been conducted six times since 2009 to follow the effects of the recession on Utah. —

Online • Utah charities

O A list of charities registered in Utah, plus information on the percentage of donations that go toward the charities' programs, is available online at