Grants have been replaced with contracts. And funding is not guaranteed.
Representatives of local social service organizations gathered at the Savannah Civic Center on Friday to learn about the city’s new process for awarding funds to nonprofits.
The previous grant program has been replaced with a competitive process in which nonprofits will have to submit proposals for programs and services that help the city achieve priorities recently identified in a new strategic plan, said Taffanye Young, Community and Economic Development bureau chief. Those priorities include neighborhood revitalization, poverty reduction, economic development and community intervention.
“Now that we’re implementing the strategic plan, we’re not issuing grants,” Young said. “We are entering contracts for services.”
To be eligible for the Community Partnerships Program contracts, applicants must be registered as nonprofits with the state and be tax-exempt. Program proposals must be detailed and specify how they will be carried out and what the outcomes will be.
“I need you to think about your programs and figure out what you do to fit the goals of the city,” Young said.
Proposals will be evaluated and the successful candidates will be recommended for funding in varying amounts ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 for community service contracts and up to $200,000 for homeless continuum of care services management.
At least two nonprofit leaders in attendance welcomed the changes.
Cindy Kelley, executive director of the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, said the program is an appropriate way to strengthen the nonprofit sector.
“This is a way for the city to get what it needs for the city’s strategic plan,” Kelley said. “But it also helps nonprofits understand a bit more about best practice and how to work in a way that focuses on outcomes.”
And the increased emphasis on meeting the city’s goals will help take the politics out of the funding process, said Economic Opportunity Authority Deputy Director Terry Tolbert.
“It’s based on what you can deliver,” Tolbert said.
Another workshop to educate organizations about the program is scheduled for Monday.
A similar program has been established for culture and arts services as well and workshops are scheduled for Aug. 22, 24, 25 and 26 to provide information about submitting proposals.
Proposals submitted for the program will be evaluated by the Cultural Affairs Commission and potentially recommended for funding in varying amounts ranging from $7,000 to $100,000.
The city had started the application process back in May last year and Telfair Museums CEO and Director Lisa Grove said Thursday that she was glad to hear the city was planning to continue to support the arts after waiting nervously to find out whether funding would continue. Telfair staff has always worked closely with the Cultural Affairs department to develop programs designed to meet the city’s goals and they looked forward to continuing that partnership, Grove said.
“I’m hopeful we will meet the goals of the new strategic plan,” she said.
The new funding programs come after opposition from the organizations led the Savannah City Council to vote in December to restore about $400,000 in financial support for cultural and social service programs that staff had initially cut to help balance the 2017 budget. The city ended up budgeting $623,150 for social service programs and $764,320 for arts and cultural programs, levels that were about flat with 2016.
The 2018 budget for the programs has not yet been determined and it is not known at this time whether the amount of funding issued will be more or less than in previous years, according to city officials.
However, the organizations should be looking for other funding methods and not be dependent on the city’s financial support, Young said.
“We want to buy your service,” she said. “We don’t want to buy your agency.”
Nonprofits have until 4 p.m. Aug. 31 to submit a proposal for the Community Partnerships Program and until 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 to submit proposals for the culture and arts program.