Supervisors agree the way the changes made in how they divvy up funds for charities makes the process less political, but more improvements could be made.
The discussion over how to more fairly disperse funds came just before they voted unanimously to green light grants $1 million for 31 nonprofits, as recommended by a committee of staff members. But they agreed that the board’s finance committee should again look at the formula used to determine which groups get funding and how much.
Of the just more than $1 million that was earmarked for grants in fiscal year 2017, HealthWorks for Northern Virginia will receive the largest check at $180,000, while the smallest grants go to Loudoun Symphony and the Children’s Science Center, at $3,158.
Twenty of the 51 nonprofits that applied for funding received zero dollars. Among those was Windy Hill Foundation, which works to provide affordable housing in Loudoun, and The Arc of Loudoun at the Paxton Campus, which serves special needs individuals. Yet, because of the formula used, of the funds set aside for nonprofit grants, $50,024 is unallocated. Supervisors voted to have the finance committee determine which groups should get that money.
County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said from the dais Thursday, “This process needs to be relooked at and tweaked.”
The previous Board of Supervisors changed the procedure to determine which charities get county grants. Previously, the grants were debated by supervisors during the annual budget adoption process, and became what Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (Ashburn) characterized as a popularity contest. Now, the board sets aside a pot of money for the grants and uses a formula to disburse it.
The grant dollars are divided into four categories: hunger and homelessness mitigation, emergency services, health and related services, and recreation and culture. Members of the county staff team up with specialists in each of those areas to vet and rate the applications. From there, the staff recommends to the board which organizations should receive money and how much.
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles), who helped device the new process, agreed with his colleagues Thursday that it’s better, but could still be improved.
“I do think it’s important that we never go back to a place where the board is making individual allocations to individual organizations—it becomes a food fight,” he said.
Buona also acknowledged that the current formula could use some more work. “You could be a new nonprofit and you just cured all hunger, but we can only give you $5,000 [under this formula],” he said.
The formula favors more established charities. Organizations who are first-time applicants can receive no more than $5,000; applicants cannot receive more or less than 5 percent than it received the previous year; and first-time applicants that do not score in the top one-third of all applicants in its category are recommended to receive no funding.
Randall raised concerns about the process favoring large organizations that have the luxury of a grant writer on staff, as opposed to smaller ones that may submit weaker applications but making just as meaningful of an impact on the community.
“These are hard decisions to make because there are a lot of organizations doing very good work with the best intentions,” Randall said, adding that behind these nonprofits are people who are in need. “This effects people’s lives.”
Letourneau said the finance committee, which he chairs, will carefully consider how to spend the left over $50,024 and take time to consider how to make the process fairer.
“Frankly, I’m surprised we got it as right as we did,” he said, and added. “But it is prudent with the new board to look at the formula again.”
Nonprofits that received grant funding in fiscal year 2017 (in order of amount):
HealthWorks for Northern Virginia $180,000
Loudoun Free Clinic $88,242
Loudoun Cares $85,000
Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter $79,359
Blue Ridge Speech & Hearing Center $72,200
The Good Shepherd Alliance Inc. $69,869
Legal Services of Northern Virginia $58,782
Loudoun ENDependence $56,162
Loudoun Interfaith Relief $49,599
INMED Partnerships for Children $52,012
Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers $36,735
Northern Virginia Dental Clinic $25,000
Northern Virginia Resource Ctr. For Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons $20,325
American Red Cross $20,403
Brian Injury Services $17,126
A Place to Call Home/ Friends of Loudoun County MH $16,046
Capital Hospice DBA Capital Caring $12,384
Northern Virginia Family Service $8,845
A Place to Be $5,897
Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter $5,349
Loudoun Literacy Council $5,209
Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington $5,250
Community Foundation $4,750
All Ages Read Together $5,000
OAR of Fairfax $5,000
Bluemont Concert Series $5,000
Mobile Hope $5,000
Loudoun Youth $3,482
Help for Others $3,299
Loudoun Symphony $3,158
Children’s Science Center $3,158
Journey Through Hallowed Ground $0
Liberty’s Promise $0
Morven Park $0
Arts for All dba VSA of Loudoun $0
Friends of Adaptive Recreation $0
Geronimo Production Company $0
Keep Loudoun Beautiful $0
Loudoun Club 12 $0
Crossroads Jobs Inc. $0
Ride-On Ranch $0
The Step Sisters $0
It Takes a Village Baby $0
Empowerment Programs for Inclusive Communities (EPIC) $0
Virginia Lawyers for Children $0
Windy Hill Foundation $0
The Salvation Army $0
Women Giving Back $0
Dulles South Food Pantry $0
The Arc of Loudoun at the Paxton Campus $0
Tree of Life Ministries Inc. $0