Ann Arbor OKs Extension of Coordinated Funding

A coordinated approach to funding of human services in Ann Arbor – which has been piloted in the last two years – will continue for a third year. The Ann Arbor city council gave its approval to continue the collaborative effort at its Oct. 15, 2012 meeting.

The “coordination” referenced in the approach takes place among local funders: Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Way of Washtenaw County, the city of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and the Washtenaw Urban County.

During a presentation at the city council’s Sept. 17, 2012 meeting, Mary Jo Callan – head of the city/county office of community and economic development – described the purpose of coordinated funding as creating a public/private partnership to focus on key areas and to create increased coherence in investing in nonprofits.

The process has three parts: planning/coordination, program operations, and capacity-building. Program operations is the part that the city has historically funded – shelters, after-school programs, counseling programs and the like.

The six priority areas targeted by the coordinated funding process, with the lead agencies, are: (1) housing and homelessness – Washtenaw Housing Alliance; (2) aging – Blueprint for Aging; (3) school-aged youth – Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth; (4) children birth to six – Success by Six; (5) health – Washtenaw Health Plan; and (6) hunger relief – Food Gatherers.

The total process puts $4.935 million into local human services nonprofits.

The extension of the coordinated funding approach for a third year means that nonprofits receiving funding currently would not need to reapply for support. The council’s decision on Oct. 15 was not a funding decision, but rather one that commits to using the same process for distributing funds, once funding decisions are made.

The extension by one year would allow for the evaluation process for the pilot period to finish – which Callan thinks will be done by January and would be available in January and February. It would also allow a better opportunity to provide the outcome data on the program so far.

At her Sept. 17 presentation, Callan counted a number of goals that had been achieved through the coordinated approach: identification of agency capacity concerns; single program description and program budget; reduced number of contracts; no required board resolution; single reporting procedure and timeline; auto-disbursement of payments regardless of funder; grantee feedback mechanism; volunteer reviewer feedback mechanism; and enhanced communication between funders and increased understanding of needs.

At that meeting, she also revealed that a private family foundation donor had expressed interest in making a significant contribution to the program, pending the outcome of a thorough evaluation of the coordinated funding approach. So the extension of the pilot program would allow for the delivery of a report on that evaluation.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]