Changes afoot in grant funding process

Changes afoot in grant funding process

By Susan Hale Thomas (File photo)

Organizations making funding requests from the Alexandria Fund for Human Services will notice a few changes next month when they prepare to write their grant proposals.

Kate Garvey, director of the city’s department of community and human services, described changes to the fund to city councilors at a public hearing last weekend.

The Fund for Human Services leverages city funding to go toward helping local nonprofits and charities. Although the program is popular, its funding has been slashed in recent years because of the city’s ongoing budget crunch.

Among the most notable changes was the consolidation of program’s three funds into one consolidated money pool. Garvey said the goal was to ensure the program was better aligned with many of the city’s strategic plans.

New to the grant process will be the appointment of upwards of 10 residents by the city manager to review grant proposals. City Councilor Paul Smedberg noted the 10-person review board will be key to the fund’s success going forward.

“We have a lot of people in this community who have a lot of expertise in the nonprofit field, and we really need to branch out and get these people involved,” he said.

Other changes will include the fund shifting toward a three-year cycle. While award recipients will only have to apply for funding every three years, they still must demonstrate compliance with city guidelines each year or risk losing their grants.

The timetable for grant proposal process also shifted. Issuance of requests will go out in January with submissions due March 1. The review process will be extended to 60 days to allow for greater time to review proposals. Award decisions will be announced at the end of May.

J. Glenn Hopkins, president and CEO of Hopkins House, a nonprofit community-based learning center, sees the changes as a big step forward. He is particularly excited about the new three-year grant cycle.

“It will create stable programming, allowing organizations to think through how to develop their programs to maturity,” he said. “It’s the kind of effect the city wants and the children and youth of Alexandria deserve.”

Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg said programs like the fund for human services are vital for supporting the nonprofit industry, which often steps in to help people when government tightens its belt.

“We are still coming out of the worst recession since the Great Depression,” she said. “[Locally], we have thousands of people who are struggling … The nonprofit sector fills that gap and helps people get back on their feet and achieve their potential.”

City council voted unanimously to adopt the recommended changes.

The program awarded more than $2 million in grants this year to organizations working to protect the Alexandria’s most vulnerable citizens — children, immigrants, the elderly and the disabled. Some of the larger grant recipients in 2014 were Child and Family Network Centers, Northern Virginia Family Service and Carpenter’s Shelter.

Next year’s grants will be awarded to organizations ensuring the city’s young people are college- and career-ready, socially connected, emotionally secure and culturally competent, and Alexandria’s families and seniors have access to health resources and help them prevent and solve crises, officials said.