Nonprofits -- from social service and religious organizations to colleges and governments -- perform a vital service to their communities.
They tend to cluster in large urban areas, often county seats, where they can do the most good.
An unfortunate side effect is that these tax-exempt organizations also are contributing to the financial woes of third-class Pennsylvania cities like York.
Thirty-seven percent of York City properties -- worth about $400 million -- are owned by non-profits that don't pay taxes.
Some of these organizations voluntarily contribute money to the city coffers, but it's only a very small fraction -- $310,000 last year -- of what would be generated if these properties were on the tax rolls.
It's a drop in the bucket as York and other cities struggle to provide basic services like police and fire protection and road maintenance -- services the nonprofits also enjoy.
And York is struggling mightily.
A consulting firm predicted in a report last year that York will end 2016 with a $50 million deficit if drastic measures aren't taken to prevent such a scenario.
And York is not alone.
Harrisburg, where city officials wanted to file for bankruptcy, is instead operating under a state-appointed receiver trying to sort out its financial mess.
Scranton is operating under an Act 47 recovery plan. But things are so bad there the mayor recently proposed raising property taxes 78 percent over three years. When the council balked, he temporarily slashed city worker's pay to minimum wage this month.
Further taxing residents is not the solution -- they can't take much more.
York property owners were hit with a 17 percent city tax increase this year, on top of an 11 percent hike last year. The city school district weighed in with a 17 percent tax of its own for the 2012-13 school year.
Is it any wonder home sales in York have been slipping steadily for years?
From Jan. 1 to May 31 the average home sales price in the city was $33,500.
"You can buy a car for that," said John LeCates, president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties.
With the Legislature refusing to act on third-class cities' request for help, such as allowing them alternative taxing options to spread the load, a team of York City "stakeholders" is taking the lead.
They're launching an unprecedented fund-raising campaign aimed at the city's non-profits, asking them to pay 25 percent of what their municipal tax bill would be if they were taxed.
For the past six months, they've been creating a database of tax-exempt properties, owners, contact information and assessed values. They're now ready to send letters, make phone calls and pay visits to owners, requesting specific amounts.
If each one on the list contributed the requested amount, the city would raise more than $2 million toward its 2013 budget.
City Councilman Henry Nixon said, "That would be transformational."
He might be overstating a bit, but it certainly would go a long way toward sharing the load.
We hope the nonprofits will be receptive when the city representatives come calling.
Yes, these organization are a benefit to the community -- but right now the community is being crushed, partly because of that help.