County supervisors stood fast on the amount of funding available for charitable nonprofits through the county’s competitive grants process this year, after previously punting a vote amid concerns from nonprofit leaders about insufficient funding.
This year, there was $1,864,647 available for competitive grants, the largest pool yet. But nonprofit leaders in April warned supervisors that the need has far outgrown the funding and called for a “right-sizing” of that allocation. Supervisors decided to table a vote until their May 3 meeting.
But on Tuesday, county supervisors proceeded with their original grants plan unanimously.
The county’s grants program awarded funding based on a scoring rubric of nonprofit allocations that seeks to keep politics on the Board of Supervisors out of those decisions, the result of years of effort to revise the process. Organizations must first achieve a minimum score to be eligible for funding, and then are awarded funding based on their ranking among those scores. But in every year of using that model so far, despite increases in funding to that pool each year, the money has run out before reaching all qualifying nonprofits.
“This is a hard motion to make, and this is why: there’s not a nonprofit that’s not doing good work. Not one,” said County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). “They’re all doing good work, but we have a process that we put in place specifically to take out board involvement.” She and others emphasized that the minimum application score is only the first step to be considered for funding.
“What we’re looking at, as a county government that is using taxpayer dollars to do this, is not necessarily that the sole determinant of whether a nonprofit is valuable or serves the community or not,” said Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles). “It just has to do with the level accountability, professionalism, accounting and so on that go into that.”
Some supervisors relatively new to the grants process, though, still expressed discomfort about the nonprofits that were left out. This year five organizations met the minimum score, but will not receive funding—and four of them, nonprofit leaders pointed out during the previous meeting, serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I don’t agree with the methodology because I think if you pass a minimum threshold, wherever we set that minimum threshold, you should get some funding,” said Supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn). Supervisor Caleb E. Kershner (R-Catoctin) agreed.
The pot will grow again next year—as is now the county’s normal practice, supervisors have directed County Administrator Tim Hemstreet to add the money that would have been awarded based on scores, had funding not run out, to next year’s budget proposal. For the five nonprofits that qualified that did not receive funding, plus the partial funding available for Mobile Hope, that amounts to $505,170 more next year.
Supervisors approved county staff members’ grant recommendations unanimously.
Of the 45 applications for grant funding, 33 met the minimum score requirement, and there was enough funding for 27 awards and part of a 28th. There were also 17 applications for mini-grants, with all 11 that met the minimum score recommended for funding.
Nonprofits will have a chance at more grants soon from the federal government. At their previous meeting, supervisors channeled another $3 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding toward nonprofits, $2.5 million of which will go to more nonprofit grants similar to previous rounds of ARPA-funded grants.
Grants this year will go, in descending order of application score, to the Loudoun Literacy Council; Northern Virginia Family Service; Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons; Women Giving Back; Crossroads Jobs; Loudoun Cares; Legacy Farms; Friends of Loudoun Mental Health; Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center; Catholic Charities Diocese of Arlington; INMED Partnerships for Children; Loudoun Hunger Relief; Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources (OAR); Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing; Dulles South Food Pantry; All Ages Read Together; the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties; Loudoun Serenity House; Insight Memory Care Center; The Arc of Loudoun; The Ryan Bartel Foundation; SCAN of Northern Virginia; The Chris Atwood Foundation; Windy Hill Foundation; Loudoun Habitat for Humanity; ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia; Legal Services of Northern Virginia and Mobile Hope Association, which received partial funding before the money ran out. Those grants ranged from $113,000 to $17,800.
Smaller grants of $5,000 or less went to Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy; Just Neighbors Ministry; Rx Partnership; Love, KK; The Step Sisters; Loudoun Youth, Inc.; Help for Others; YMCA Loudoun County; the American Turkish Friendship Association; BDesh Foundation; and Station Stitchers. Those grant applications go through a less intensive process.