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DC One City Fund Makes Its Entrance

Yesterday, DC Mayor Vincent Gray held a briefing at the Wilson Building about the One City Fund, a new initiative led by the DC Mayor’s Office, in partnership with many key nonprofit sector actors in the Washington area. The One City Fund is a new nonprofit funding mechanism in the FY2014 budget, and the briefing introduced the fund to the general public and nonprofit community. The current proposal makes available $15 million for nonprofits serving DC residents, through a competitive application process facilitated by the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region. The Fund will stand independent from government funding through other city departments, and aims to eliminate and replace earmarked nonprofit funding. (An important caveat: all information on the Fund is still preliminary, as the DC City Council has yet to approve it.)

Funding priorities for the One City Fund align with key goals of the DC One City Action Plan: growing and diversifying the DC economy; educating and preparing residents for the emerging new economy; improving the quality of life for DC residents; and increasing the city’s sustainability. Aside from these goals, priority funding areas for the Fund will include education, job training, homelessness, health, services for seniors, arts, public safety, and the environment. Obviously, most nonprofits in the District will meet those criteria in the broad sense, so keep this in mind too — Mayor Gray emphasized throughout the briefing that the application and selection process will prioritize innovation and new investments that will eventually become self-sustaining. Each grant cannot exceed $100,000 per year, though some projects may be renewed for up to three years.

What nonprofits need to know: The application requirements are still very preliminary, so expect more details over the summer (assuming that all goes to plan). The main take-away for potential applicants at this point is that the DC Government is looking for new nonprofit partners for government funding, and wants to help spark the innovation that will start to move the needle on key issue areas in the city. One other requirement – all funding must serve DC residents. Nonprofits operating in Maryland and/or Virginia as well as Washington must show through their proposals how any One City Fund monies will exclusively serve DC residents.

A comforting note for the smaller nonprofits in the Catalogue community: many questions were asked pertaining to the unique characteristics of small nonprofits during the briefing. The answers given by Mayor Gray and CFNCR President Terri Lee Freeman indicate that the application process will be flexible enough to accommodate smaller nonprofits (like those in the Catalogue), who do great work, have the potential to innovate, and can make a deep impact on their communities in DC.

For the community at large, the potential benefits of the One City Fund are substantial. The Mayor reiterated that an open, transparent, and competitive grant-making process is a step in the right direction for DC Government, and will allow more nonprofits to be part of that process. While, again, the Fund itself is in the planning stages, both Mayor Gray and Freeman spoke of several potential methods for using the grants to increase community knowledge and awareness of best practices in nonprofit work. This could include presentations by grantees on their work throughout the grant process; other collaboration/networking opportunities for grantees within the priority areas; and evaluations of the fund itself and its progress on moving the needle for areas like unemployment, workforce development, graduation rates, and environmental protection.

Next steps for those interested in One City Fund grants: On Thursday April 18th, the Committee of the Whole will hold a hearing on the One City Fund at the Wilson Building. Members of the nonprofit committee are encouraged to sign up to testify on behalf of the fund. More information will likely be made available by the Mayor’s Office and the Community Foundation after the One City Fund receives the green-light from the City Council – keep an eye on their websites over the summer for details on how and when to apply.

Universal Pre-School

The Washington Post points out that, “In DC, public school for 3-year-olds is already the norm:”

In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a dramatic shift in early childhood education: free public preschool for all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds. [...] The District is already doing something more ambitious. Nearly 13,000 of the city?s roughly 15,000 3- and 4-year-olds are attending public preschool. [...]

So as national and state leaders consider a major expansion of public education, the city offers an example of how that that can play out on the ground.

Says Jack McCarthy, Managing Director of the AppleTree Institute for Education Innovation (a Catalogue nonprofit), “Here is a place where funding is in place, universal preschool is policy” [...] If the quality could be improved and ensured for all, “we could close the achievement gap here in five years.”

Hiring teachers with college and advanced degrees to create preschool centers of excellence in language and literacy, and guaranteeing the necessary training and professional development, is central to AppleTree’s mission. You can catch a glimpse inside an AppleTree classroom here.

In The News …

What’s Driving College Costs Higher? (WAMU): Just days before student loan rates are set to double for millions of Americans, President Obama and congressional leaders haven’t reached an agreement on legislation to keep those rates at 3.4 percent. The debate reflects the growing concern over the debt burden many take on to get a college education. About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow money to attend college, and collectively, student debt has topped $1 trillion [...] The average college senior in the U.S. now carries $25,000 in student loan debt at graduation. Those figures rise when graduate degrees are figured into the equation.” We’ve written about the briefing at the White House on College Affordability before and highlighted some of our nonprofits that are dedicated to college affordability. What needs to improve besides interest rates?

County officials, nonprofits fear domestic violence funding cut due to Congressional gridlock (Gazette): “Prince George’s County officials and advocates for domestic violence victims said they are worried that gridlock in Congress could jeopardize essential services to victims and their families [...] nonprofit and government organizations in Prince George’s County received $4 million in VAWA funding last year, through a total of 91 federal grants.” County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks says that “the largest impact will be to the outreach and support efforts for victims, particularly in the Latino community.” You can learn about, and support, nonprofits in Prince George’s right here.

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