The Board of Supervisors’ finance committee has recommended that the county reset grant funding levels for nonprofit organizations, clearing the field for upstart nonprofits to qualify for a lot more money from the county and opening up older nonprofits to the possibility of much less funding.
Supervisors have been reviewing how the county allocates grant funding for nonprofits. In an effort to depoliticize the process, the county established funding guidelines based on previous years, including limiting funding increases or decreases from the previous year to 5 percent and capping first-time applicants at $5,000. Supervisors have been working on reviewing those rules again.
At its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 13, the finance committee unanimously recommended the board reset those funding levels—established a zero-year and putting all nonprofits on a level playing field regardless of how much they received the previous year.
“We might as well just go ahead and make it be known right now that we’re going to start over next year,” committee Chairman Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) said. “We’re going to allocate based on merit as these applications come in. There’s not going to be carryovers. I understand up front that might be a little scary for some of the nonprofits.”
Supervisors have been considering the change for some time, with several arguing that the current system has too little flexibility. For example, the rules require the county to give HealthWorks, which received the most funding among the county’s nonprofits at $180,000 last year, no less than $171,000. Meanwhile, first-time applicants such as The Arc of Loudoun, which was founded in 1967, can receive no more than $5,000.
The finance committee also recommended ditching that $5,000 cap.
The county divides nonprofits into five areas of need. Rather than the previous system, which adjusted funding levels based on a three-tiered ranking system in each area of need, the finance committee is recommending the county use a simpler policy that funds the highest-scoring nonprofits in each area of need according to the overall allocation provided by the board. This year, the county has set aside $1,058,915 for grant funding.
The committee’s recommendation for a zero-year, along with a number of process and clerical changes, will now go to the full board for a vote. Two other staff recommendations, to change the definitions of the areas of need and eliminate the “recreation and culture” category, face resistance from some committee members, and will come back to the finance committee at its meeting Nov. 15.