Charlottesville City Council is putting a policy in place to prevent a haphazard way of divvying out taxpayer dollars to non-profits.
Monday night, council approved a tougher set of policies for that funding. Right now, after the city budget is set, a nonprofit can go to a council meeting, ask for a few thousand dollars, and avoid a lengthy application review. But a simple three-page policy is changing that.
Cristine Nardi, the executive director at the Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNE), works with more than 250 nonprofits to build budgets that have two bottom lines. She said, "Nonprofits not only have to be in the black, but they also have to make sure they're serving their mission."
CNE encourages agencies to advocate for funding from City Hall, but not rely on it. "That could put them at risk when those funding priorities change," said Nardi.
A 15-member agency budget review team spends months pouring through applications from nonprofits and recommends which ones Charlottesville City Council should fund. Council also keeps a pot of cash to dole out at its discretion after the budget is set.
Since July, councilors have handed out $15,949.40 for individual requests, including to MACCA, the Vegetarian Festival, and Silverbacks Football team.
"It wasn't always clear to the public what was the basis for these decisions, and it seemed kind of capricious," said Charlottesville City Councilor Kathy Galvin.
Now, council is putting a policy in place for nonprofits and festivals seeking funds outside the review team process. They will have to use the money to meet council priorities ranging from reducing poverty to reducing stormwater runoff.
"It's really important to have these measures so you know, again, you're investing the public's money in a worthwhile endeavor that's going to have an impact on the priorities of council," said Galvin.
The city is requiring four weeks to do a full review of the funding request.
"It's in the best interest to nonprofits if there's transparency and if they understand where funding is available and how they can go about obtaining it," said Nardi.
She believes the policy holds nonprofits accountable for meeting a mission. Nardi said, "The question really is - what do you do with that money?"
The policy also requires nonprofits meet the same criteria they would have had to meet if the funding request went through the review team.
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