Ferguson Fails in HUD Grant Bid

(Ferguson, Missouri)

Ferguson, Missouri was not selected as a recipient for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding. The town – which became a national symbol for racial and economic inequality in the wake of the shooting death of Michael Brown – factored in as one of the 40 finalists for the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC). The grants offered by the program are designed to fund initiatives to make communities more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Missouri officials sought $38.3 million to “improve the economic resilience of citizens in North St. Louis County, so they are able to build assets and withstand the shocks and stressors that will inevitably come.” The funding represented an opportunity to implement infrastructure improvements in the economically depressed area.

The 12 grant recipients include: the state of California ($70.4 million), the state of Connecticut ($54.3 million), New Orleans ($141.3 million), the state of Iowa ($96.9 million), Minot, North Dakota ($74.3 million), the state of Louisiana ($92.6 million), Shelby County, Tennessee ($60.4 million), the state of New Jersey ($15 million), Springfield, Massachusetts ($17.1 million), the state of New York ($35.8 million), the state of Tennessee ($44.5 million), and the state of Virginia ($120.6 million).

The cash-strapped city recently made news as the Department of Justice and the Ferguson Police Department reached a deal on a number of reforms aimed to bolster community trust in the police, improve accountability, and promote diversity in the department’s corps of officers. Up until now, the city had only a few African-American police officers on its more than 50-strong police force. Ferguson’s population is 70 percent black. The deal will require officers to don body cameras and microphones within 180 days, and will mandate that the police force focus on more accurately reflecting the town’s racial makeup in its ranks.

Los Angeles Nonprofits to Receive $1 Billion in Grants

To honor its hundredth year, The California Community Foundation has announced that it will distribute a whopping $1 billion to Los Angeles nonprofits within the next ten years.

The foundation is leveraging its wealthy supporters as well as discretionary funding it has acquired over the past decades to make the new push, which represents a sizable increase over recent activities. Over the last decade, The California Community Foundation dispersed $700 million dollars to support a wide variety of nonprofits.

In order to execute on its promise, the foundation will actually have to kick into fundraising overdrive. According to staff, however, the added work will permit the organization to pursue its mission and principles.

The California Community Foundation’s President and Chief Executive Antonia Hernandez told reporters that the organization is prepared to accomplish this formidable project:

For us, it’s a stretch and we will have to go out there and work more with our donors, but we feel that we will be able to meet that commitment. We didn’t want to make a statement or commitment where we felt it was not doable.

It is unclear whether or not the foundation will follow in the footsteps of other high-profile grant-providers, such as The Ford Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, which have both shifted their priorities to tackling inequality, as well as to providing more overhead funding that gives nonprofits breathing room to cultivate staff and capital assets.

In the past, The California Community Foundation has awarded funding to all sorts nonprofits, including arts groups and basic needs assistance organizations.

Nonprofits and individuals can apply for grants on the foundation’s website. Applications are reviewed by a 20 person advisory board that makes the final decisions on which applicants will receive funding.

The Chicago Community Trust Follows Ford’s Lead

(The Chicago Community Trust President Terry Mazany)

The Ford Foundation appears to have struck a nerve.

Following the grant-making giant’s announcement in June to provide more funding for nonprofit operations support, other groups are following suit. Terry Mazany – president of The Chicago Community Trust – announced that his organization will begin offering grants from between $35,000 to $300,000 to Chicago’s “anchor organizations.” The grants are designed to explicitly fund operations budgets.

Mazany acknowledged the shortcomings of hitherto applied grant-making criteria in a speech at his foundation’s “State of the Community” event:

As foundations, we have been rightfully accused of creating too much administrative work that takes nonprofit resources away from their mission and establishing grant requirements that distort a nonprofit’s mission in order to satisfy funder priorities. Some of the things we do actually undermine your ability to be successful.

It may take years before this new framework proves its worth, but the logic behind it is predicated on basic business concepts. When invested with unrestricted capital, businesses can grow dynamically. Nonprofits, however, have long been bogged down by onerous requirements attached to their funding. The results-based, programmatic approach that demands concrete reporting on the progress of carefully delineated line items does not typically give nonprofits flexibility.

No-strings-attached funding provides nonprofits with breathing room, allowing them to accrue staff, make technology improvements, and increase overhead with the goal of improving overall efficacy as opposed to supporting individual projects.

Mazany also announced that, like the Ford Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust will begin focusing inequality and social justice causes. In strong words, he remarked: “We must stop kicking the can of racism down the road for the next generation to resolve.”

Key Elements Group LLC will continue reporting on this trend in grant-making.

MacArthur Foundation Announces 2015 Recipients

(Above: writer and MacArthur Grant recipient Ta-Nehisi Coates speaking at the University of Michigan)

The MacArthur Foundation - one of the highest profile grant-giving organizations in the world – announced its 2015 recipients on Tuesday. Given to artists, scientists, writers, and important thinkers, each “genius” grant provides a no-strings-attached amount of $625,000 for each recipient to use in pursuit of her/his work. According to the foundation’s website, the grants are awarded for  “exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work.”

Among this year’s recipients, stand out “geniuses” included Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic correspondent and author of the riveting book on race Between the World and Me), Matthew Desmond (renowned urban socialists and ethnographer who has produced widely acclaimed work on evictions in the United States), and LaToya Ruby Frazier (acclaimed photographer whose portraits profiling the history of decaying steel-production town Braddock, Pennsylvania have documented the blight of the United States’ rust belt).

Click here to see a full list of recipients.

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