Coordinated Funding Model
In 2008, the City of Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, and the Washtenaw Urban County adopted a funding model to coordinate its investments in local human service programs, known as the Integrated Funding Model. This model was successful in reducing duplication of effort for non-profit applicants as well as County and City staff; increasing collaboration between non-profit entities and between funders; and increasing our focus on outcomes as a way to understand impact.
In an effort to further the improvements realized through the public coordinated funding process, representatives from the City, County, United Way of Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw Urban County, and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation came together to explore a public-private partnership to better organize investments in local human services. The group met regularly to discuss and research the potential benefits and costs of such a model. The work included examining the current system for funding non-profits; convening meetings with local non-profits to hear feedback and questions; meeting with key donors, business leaders, and other stakeholders to get feedback; and ultimately developing a plan to establish a formal Coordinated Funding Model.
WASHTENAW COORDINATED FUNDERS
In the fall of 2010, the Washtenaw Coordinated Funders [including the Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED), which represents Washtenaw County, the City of Ann Arbor, and the Washtenaw Urban County; the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF); and the United Way of Washtenaw County (UWWC)] partnered together to coordinate their leadership and funding of Washtenaw County human service programs in order to maximize the community impact of that funding. This partnership came to fruition through the recognition that among the various components of the three funders' work, one task was shared by all: funding human services in the community.
The Coordinated Funding Model is designed to:
Leverage each funder’s investment in local non-profits;
Minimize duplicative work and effort for non-profits applying for funding;
Reduce overlap and eliminate redundancies between funding entities;
Create shared, community-level measurement of human services outcomes;
Maximize the effectiveness of funds invested in targeted critical human services for the growing number of citizens struggling to meet basic needs.
Each organization brings capacity, knowledge, best practices, and experience, which results in improvements such as more comprehensive data about community needs and “one application-one review-one evaluation” process for agencies to manage rather than one per funder.
COORDINATED FUNDING MODEL:
Key elements of the Public-Private Coordinated Funding Model include:
- Supporting and improving the existing system of human services through three major funding categories
- Planning and Coordination: the coordination and maximization of services among non-profits working in the same sector (e.g., housing, aging, health, etc.);
- Program Operations: the day-to-day expenses of serving people in programs such as shelter, after school activities, family therapy, or safety net medical care;
- Capacity Building: the occasional one-time costs for things like governance improvement, finance, program evaluation or other improvements, to help a non-profit thrive.
- Targeting investments to five impact/priority areas to include:
- Early Childhood (0 to 6 years)
Housing & Homelessness
Safety Net Health and Nutrition
School-aged Youth (7 to 21 years)
- Supporting and better utilizing existing planning/coordinating bodies. These entities are asked to play a lead role in assessing needs, service gaps, and effective/best practices that will inform future funding for local non-profits. They will engage agencies and other experts, and consumers so that investments are aligned with and supportive of what is working and what is needed.
This model recognizes that the community is best served when vital services are sufficiently funded; when those services are coordinated among multiple non-profits; and when those non-profits themselves are strong and sustainable over the long term. This approach has been embedded in the community, and in the way local funders support the non-profits, for years. Program operations have long been funded by the City of Ann Arbor, the United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County, and the Washtenaw Urban County, while planning and capacity building have been funded primarily by Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and United Way of Washtenaw County.
Local funders have long invested in many of the same non-profits, and the same coordinating groups, at the same time. But even though they are increasingly demanding collaboration from the non-profits they fund, the funders have historically made these investments independently. To remedy this problem and provide a stronger overall funding mechanism to the community, the Coordinated Funding Model includes three collaborations that align with the three funding categories listed above.
Funding for Program Operations
The Office of Community and Economic Development (OCED) - working under the authority of the City, County and Urban County - and United Way of Washtenaw County (UWWC) use a shared process to determine each funder’s independent allocation of funds for operations. While OCED and UWWC have already shared a similar on-line application form, they have previously used different deadlines, different sets of guidelines, different review criteria and processes, and different reporting and monitoring processes. The Coordinated Funding Model improves upon these independent processes through:
A single overall set of guidelines describing the funds available from all funders;
A single deadline to simultaneously request funds from all funders;
A single review process, with representatives from each body participating in the review;
A single set of funding recommendations brought back separately to the governing board of each funding entity; and, for funded programs;
A single set of community-wide outcomes to measure for each priority area;
A single, shared monitoring and reporting process.
The participating entities continue to have full and complete autonomy over their own funding decisions. But, decisions are made with the knowledge of what other funders are doing, and with the reassurance that dollars are being invested to maximum effect because they have been coordinated and leveraged with the other operating dollars.
Funding for Planning and Coordination
Non-profits need to collaborate with one another to effectively deliver services and to identify their collective needs, and the needs of those they exist to help. This work already takes place in organizations like the Blueprint for Aging (coordinating senior services) and Washtenaw Success by 6 (early childhood development), to cite just two examples. It takes time and money for this planning to occur, which necessitates a partnership among the funders to pay for this work. Under this model, the AAACF and UWWC jointly developed criteria and recommendations to their governing boards to direct the funding of the existing Planning & Coordination entities. The Office of Community and Economic Development was an active participant in shaping decisions about the work of Planning & Coordinating entities, and continues to advise this work as it impacts the investments in human service program operations.
Our planning and coordination partners include:
Blueprint for Aging (Aging)
Success by Six Great Start Collaborative (Early Childhood)
Washtenaw Alliance for Children and Youth (School-aged Youth)
Washtenaw Health Plan (Safety Net Health) and Food Gatherers (Nutrition)
Washtenaw Housing Alliance (Housing & Homelessness)
Funding for Capacity Building
Much like the shared application process for operating funds, this effort coordinates the capacity-building grants of AAACF and UWWC by providing non-profits with a single application deadline with one overall set of guidelines, a simultaneous single application to both funders, and a side-by-side recommendation process. The boards of both funders receive a set of recommendations regarding their own organization’s funds that could be approved, modified or denied, as they currently do, but with the added knowledge of how their own decision fits with that of the other funder’s, and within the system as a whole. The Office of Community and Economic Development was, again, an active participant in informing and shaping capacity-building needs, and continues to advise this work as it impacts the investments in human service program operations.
For questions & comments related to the Coordinated Funding Model, please contact:
Andrea Plevek, Director
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Does this model exist in any other communities?
No. This model was created through the efforts of volunteers, coordinated funding partners’ staff, nonprofit agencies, and community leaders over a period of 8 months. It is unique in that private philanthropy and government are working together to respond to the nonprofit landscape across the county.
What types of programs receive funding under this model… and for how long?
Programs that address the issues of nutrition, housing and homelessness, access to safety net healthcare, early childhood, school-aged youth, and aging. Agencies are currently funded under this model for two years beginning July 1, 2014.
Do the Coordinated Funding partners pool all their resources (public and private funds)?
No. Each partner maintains accountability and authority for distributing their unique funds. No dollars are exchanged or co-mingled.
What is the process to apply for program operating funds under the Coordinated Funding model?
For the program/operating funds process, a two-phased approach is used. This includes a pre-qualification phase that closely examines the financial reports, governance practices, and operational policies of all interested applicants. Following a rigorous review facilitated by United Way, applicants that meet core thresholds are eligible to apply for program operations funding.
Following training and with technical assistance during the application process, applicants then complete a streamlined online application. Applicants are informed of the scoring criteria that will be used in evaluating their requests prior to submitting their proposals.
How and by whom are decisions made for program operating funds regarding who gets funded and at what level?
A team of volunteers representing AAACF, UWWC and OCED work together to review requests for funding. Volunteers review the applications and score them using an online scoring tool available to all agencies for reference when completing their applications. Organizations can receive up to 100 points per application.
What are the oversight and stewardship processes for those who receive funding?
The Coordinated Funding Partners require bi-annual outcome and client demographic reports, annual site visits and an annual audit for the program operations funds. Terms of the funding and expectations are mutually agreed to in a contract.
What is meant by “community-wide outcomes” as a benefit of this funding model?
Several years ago, Washtenaw County shifted from focusing on and funding outputs – that is, merely counting the number of people served, the number of shelter nights, or the numbers of classes or counseling sessions attended – to an outcome-oriented approach. Outcomes focus on what changes as a result of the above outputs or intervention. For example, a focus on the outcome of a services tells us how many people moved from shelter to stable housing, and, how many people maintained that housing. This outcome orientation allows for a better understanding of the impact of investments in specific programs.
Coordinated Funding enabled funders and agencies to advance this outcome approach by agreeing on a smaller single set of community-wide outcomes to measure for each priority area. Instead of collecting hundreds of diverse outcomes created in isolation by funded agencies, these agencies were asked to agree on a finite set of outcomes to measure service impact. These “community-wide outcomes” will allow Coordinated Funders, local policy-makers, and the community at-large to have a more manageable, coherent scorecard against which to measure impact.
Is there a process for restricting funds once an agency has been awarded and for what reasons would this be implemented?
Yes. Funded agencies have signed a contract which outlines their responsibilities and specifically addresses the consequences of failing to meet those responsibilities.
Is there a process in place to evaluate the Coordinated Funding model?
The Coordinated Funding Partners will continue to meet to address on-going implementation issues and concerns. Agencies provided input as the model was designed. The Coordinated Funding partners are committed to funding periodic, independent formal evaluations that will help us closely monitor both the successes and unintended consequences emerging from this approach.
What has been the response from local agencies?
Coordinated Funding represented a significant change in the way local public and private funding was distributed to meet community needs. Like all dramatic change efforts, Coordinated Funding had detractors. Some agency directors and leaders, who historically relied on relationships with individual funders to secure support for their programming, were afraid and skeptical about this new, outcome-oriented and collaborative approach to funding. Coordinated Funders encouraged agencies to give feedback, ask questions and contribute ideas, and worked hard to ensure that reality-based concerns were addressed and ideas incorporated in the planning and implementation process. As the Coordinated Funding process has progressed, initial concerns have disappeared, and feedback from nonprofits, policy-makers, donors, and the community has been very positive.