County Increases Nonprofit Funding With Grant Overhaul

The Board of Supervisors has given Loudoun nonprofits the biggest increase in county funding since it began setting aside a separate pool of funding for those organizations.

The county has removed six nonprofits from the competitive grant funding process, now opting to fund them directly. Those six nonprofits— HealthWorks for Northern Virginia, Loudoun Free Clinic, Northern VA Dental Clinic, Blue Ridge Speech and Hearing, Loudoun Volunteer Caregivers, and Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter—routinely accounted for half of the county’s nonprofit grants. They will collectively receive the same amount as last year, $502,519.

But the $1,090,700 pool of funding for grants remains the same, meaning the county has increased by half the pool of county money set aside for nonprofits.

The board has tried for years to protect nonprofit grant funding from political concerns. Supervisors have considered a number of different formulas and processes, including a few false starts—such as the backing of a dramatic restructuring of grant funding in 2017. But its latest attempt passed with relatively little drama on the dais, and was ultimately approved unanimously in the same vote with other uncontroversial items on the board’s agenda.

“If any nonprofit has not scored in a place where you would receive funds, I won’t take that meeting,” said Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “Because, again, we are taking any of the politics out of that.”

The county picked out those six nonprofits as providing “core safety net services,” or “those services that assist vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals and families in meeting a critical need for safety, health, security and independence.”

County staff decided those nonprofits meet several criteria, selecting nonprofits that have “substantial experience in delivering critical direct care services in the areas of safety, health and emergency shelter to vulnerable populations;” with a record of high quality performance and stability; that serve as “the primary or only source of a critical safety net service provision” that local government can’t provide; and are “currently the best point of entry” to the kind of services they provide.

The new process also focuses funding on what Randall has called “life-sustaining” rather than “life-enhancing” nonprofits—meaning some recreational and cultural nonprofits may no longer get funding from that source. Instead, they may be able to apply for money from the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax funding, part of which is set aside for projects that support or promote tourism and travel to the county.

Small nonprofits applying for $5,000 or less, which may not have staffing or time for the complex work of grant writing, could see a simplified application process.

The county will pursue a partnership with the Loudoun Human Services Network to create a human services strategic plan. That would also include a $30,000 donation to the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties to provide a consultant.

That work would yield a plan for nonprofit funding into the future, awareness, shared resources, co-locating services, a human services database, and a single point of entry to services, among other topics.

The county will also start the grant program earlier in the year and make grant training available to nonprofits. Currently, the county announces grant funding just before the beginning of the new fiscal year, when many nonprofits need to know their budget for the year.

Randall said the new process also focuses on “evidence-based numbers.”

“Make sure you know how to fill out the application, make sure that every I is dotted and every T is crossed, and make sure that you have some evidence-based numbers and some robust information behind your application,” Randall said. “Because if you don’t, you are unlikely to be funded.”

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