The Issaquah Human Services Commission has leant its support to a proposal to study alternate ways of funding local nonprofits and human services providers.
Under the current system, groups that provide critical support for seniors, children and adults with disabilities, low income families, and women and children threatened with domestic violence, are forced to rely on an unpredictable round of yearly grants and handouts from local, county, state and federal governments. In recent years, the last three have dramatically scaled back their financial support of these services. Increasingly the burden has fallen on cities like Issaquah and Sammamish, which, despite cutting budgets in almost all other areas have admirably managed to hold the line on human services.
The City of Sammamish has held its human services budget at $160,000 in recent years; Issaquah has maintained a budget of $218,000.
But there is a growing awareness that a new funding model must be found if groups like Issaquah Church and Community Services, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Youth Eastside Services, Hopelink, Faith in Action, Eastside Domestic Violence Program, and Meals on Wheels programs and food banks are to continue the vital work they do in a time when demand for their services is greater than ever.
And so the Eastside Human Services Forum, which is made up of a number of Eastside cities and umbrella organizations, is planning a $35,000 study into ways to create a business model that creates new revenue sources for nonprofits, reducing the reliance on taxes and the largesse of cities.
These new revenue sources could include profit making businesses which fund the service provision/nonprofit arm of the organization, or leveraging a combined pool of money for financial investments.
The Issaquah Human Services Commission decided by a vote of 5 – 1 Aug. 25 that these are ideas worth exploring, and recommended Mayor Ava Frisinger approve the $3,150 that would be Issaquah’s share of the $35,000 total. This would pay for a consultant for about 350 hours to identify at least one key revenue strategy, and prepare a report for the partner cities.
While it is agreed that to adequately provide for the growing demand for human and social services improvements to the funding system must be made, it is understood one member of the Human Services Commission was not supportive of the Eastside Human Services Forum, arguing it would do little but add another layer of bureaucracy to a system which relies upon local knowledge and contact.
Human Services Commission Chair Paul Winterstein, who is supportive of the initiative, told The Reporter last week the key word to any successful funding model was “sustainable.”
“Of the 61 grant proposals we are currently evaluating, there are very few agencies who are looking at a reliable funding picture,” he said. “Nobody really has a clear picture, and this is something they deal with every year. These groups, which are doing very important work, have to repeatedly go back to the well, with no guarantee that they will be granted to money to continue. If we can put together an entity that provides a more sustainable revenue source, and remove some of this uncertainty, then I think we should do the study.”
For more information about the Eastside Human Services Forum, visit www.eastsideforum.org