How does the County Board currently allocate human and community services funding, and why is it changing?
The Arlington County Board awards funding to human services and community services providers in the annual operating budget in an ad hoc and noncompetitive way. Some awards are ongoing, i.e., included in the County Manager’s base budget from year to year, and some are made with one-time funding, which means that the County Board must find new funding for the award to continue it beyond that budget year.
This lack of process has resulted in problems such as:
- Organizations that have not previously received funding lack information or a clear path to submit proposals for consideration.
- Organizations that have historically received funding lack a clear path to request increases or changes in their funding levels.
- Programs that should be within the scope of individual departments – such as service contracts for basic safety-net services – are funded on a discretionary basis rather than bid competitively.
Note: Arlington also awards federal, state and local funding for human and community services providers through the Community Development Fund. The County Board approves these awards, but does so based on the recommendations and outcomes of a competitive public process.
When did the Board decide to change its process, and was community input considered?
The County Board, in the FY2020 Budget, directed that the County Manager:
“Develop a submission tool and methodology to evaluate non-profits with service contracts with the County to evaluate requests they make for more or supplemental funding for substantially the same scope of work, and for a separate evaluation of non-profits that request funding from the Board for scopes of work not currently supported by public funds.”
In 2019 and early 2020, the Department of Human Services consulted and collaborated with the nonprofits currently receiving County Board awards about a possible transition to a Notice of Funding Available process, yielding important insights and recommendations into an improved process (many of which are reflected in the new process discussed here). However, the disruption of COVID and more importantly, the adoption of the County’s Equity Resolution led to a pause and redirection from County Board members.
Specifically, the lack of transparency and competition in the award of nonprofit funding was raised by BIPOC nonprofit leaders in the County, echoing objections and concerns with “The Arlington Way” emphasized throughout Arlington Dialogues on Race and Equity in late 2020. This input demonstrated that the County Board and County government needed to reform nonprofit funding decisions through an equity lens and not just a process reform lens.
How was the equity-based nonprofit funding process developed?
During 2021 and 2022, Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol and Arlington County Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd, with input from other County Board members, representatives of the County Manager’s Office and staff worked to convene BIPOC community leaders as well as regional and national experts on grantmaking for equity.
Throughout 2022, a BIPOC community leaders group – Arlingtonians with deep relationships and reach into the County’s neighborhoods and communities of color – worked with County representatives, in meetings facilitated by the United Way of the National Capital Area, to co-create a set of principles for an equity-based process for the County Board to award nonprofit funding(PDF, 204KB).
How will the new equity-based nonprofit funding process be shared with the community and formalized?
The steps to develop these principles, and the recommendations themselves, were formally presented to the County Board at its December 20th, 2022, meeting, and will be presented to the broader Arlington community at our January 9th, 2023 community meeting.
The County Board will consider a resolution to adopt the principles of the new process in Q1 2023.
When and how will the County Board transition to the new equity-based nonprofit funding process?
Elements of these recommendations have already been incorporated into County funding decisions, for example the fall 2022 award of funding for Restorative Justice programming through a competitive Notice of Funding Available at the County Board’s direction.
The principles – including competitive funding; emphasis on organizations’ track records and preparedness to define and meet the needs of Arlington’s communities of color; reduced barriers to application; and tailored performance measurement and monitoring plans – will be reflected in the County Board’s FY2024 budget evaluation process.
A full Notice of Funding Available process, consistent with the principles, is planned to launch in fall of 2023, with the first formal awards allocated as part of the FY2025 budget:
- The NOFA process will be run through the County Manager’s Office, with support and technical assistance throughout 2023 from the United Way of the National Capital Area.
- The County Board will vote on final awards.
How will organizations currently receiving County Board-awarded human and community services funding be affected?
All current grants and contracts awarded by the County Board will transition to a transparent procurement or grantmaking process:
- For those organizations providing core human services as an extension of the mission and function of the Department of Human Services, DHS will be working to formalize agreements as, for example, sole source contracts or competitively-bid contracts:
- These transitions will take place over time.
- Moving to formal procurement practices will allow providers and DHS to work together to determine appropriate funding levels, escalators, and adjustments as a matter of contracting for service delivery (rather than a matter of County Board discretion).
- Organizations historically funded by the County Board to provide community-identified services and programs are invited and encouraged to compete in the Notice of Funding Available process beginning in the second half of calendar year 2023, with Board approval in spring 2024 and funding disbursed beginning in FY2025 (July 2024):
- Organizations may wish to submit proposals for their programs – and funding levels – as they have been historically supported by County Board allocations, OR:
- Organizations are encouraged to submit new programs and funding requests to serve current community needs.
How will organizations NOT currently receiving County Board-awarded human and community services funding be affected?
Organizations not historically funded by the County Board are invited and encouraged to submit proposals to the Notice of Funding Available Process.
Where can I learn more, including when and how to submit a proposal for the Fall 2023 Notice of Funding Available?
This website will continue to include updates on the transition to the new process.
Questions about the decision to change nonprofit funding practices and the work to develop the new equity-based process may be sent to the County Board at email@example.com.
Questions about the transition going forward, including the NOFA in the second half of 2023 and impacts on individual organizations, should be sent to Amber Barnett and Elizabeth Matlock, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.