County Gives Initial OK to Coordinated Funding

Washtenaw County commissioners have given initial approval to allocate funding to local nonprofits as part of a coordinated funding approach for human services, in partnership with several other local funders. The action took place at the county board’s May 7, 2014 meeting.

The county is one of the original five partners in the coordinated funding approach. Other partners are city of Ann Arbor, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. It began as a pilot program in 2010.

This year, 105 applications were submitted by 50 local organizations totaling $8,732,389 in requested funding, according to a staff memo. A review committee recommended that 57 programs receive a total of $4,321,494 in available funding. Of that amount, the county is providing $1.015 million. [.pdf of staff memo and list of funding allocations]

Among the organizations that are being funded in this cycle are Corner Health Center, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Washtenaw County, Child Care Network, Catholic Social Services of Washtenaw, Food Gatherers and Legal Services of South Central Michigan. Several nonprofit leaders spoke during public commentary in support of this process, as did Ann Arbor city administrator Steve Powers. He noted that the city council would be voting on its share of the allocation – $1,244,629 – at its May 19 meeting, as part of its budget approval process.

The coordinated funding process has three parts: planning/coordination, program operations, and capacity-building. The approach targets six priority areas, and identifies lead agencies for each area: (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.

In 2012, TCC Group – a consulting firm based in Philadelphia – was hired to evaluate the process. As a result of that review, several changes were recommended and later authorized as part of the county board’s overall coordinated funding resolution, passed on Nov. 6, 2013. The changes were described in a staff memo:

The County’s Human Services and Children’s Well-being funding will continue to focus on critical services for early childhood, aging, housing/homelessness, safety net health, school-aged children and youth, and food security/hunger relief. Under this proposal, this funding will not necessarily be allocated to these six priority areas in proportional amounts consistent with historic trends. Allocations to these six priority areas will be based on identified community-level outcomes, the strategies that align with them, and how each are prioritized.

Under this proposal, the application pre-screening process will be broadened to better accommodate smaller non-profit organizations. New types of financial documentation will allow smaller agencies to illustrate their viability in the absence of an independent audit. Capacity-building grants would be available to target smaller agencies that need to improve their governance or financial structure to be eligible for the application process, with the goal of expanding the opportunities for all agencies providing human services in the County in an equitable fashion.

Funding for this cycle will start on July 1, 2014. In addition, the RNR Foundation – a family foundation that funded TCC Group’s evaluation of the coordinated funding approach – will now be an additional funder in this process.

The county board is expected to take a final vote to allocate funding on May 21.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]