Philly anti-violence grant funds are too hard to come by, nonprofits say

Support for small non-profits

The city provided two liaisons to help recipients with repayments and purchases, which some nonprofit groups said they found helpful when filing their expenses.

But how well an organization can navigate the process depends a lot on the size of the organization, how much money it has in reserve, and how much time it has to communicate with the funder.

Angenic Howard, CEO of Unique Dreams Inc., said she could not use the grant to purchase equipment for her organization’s boxing program and instead partnered with another organization to provide it. She said the refund process could put smaller organizations in a financial bind – they may not have the cash to pay for every purchase needed to run new programs.

“It’s a tough job for a nonprofit, especially a small nonprofit, to be able to access these funds,” Howard said.

Mckayla Warwick says she still owes payments to venue owners under the scheme she ran with city funding. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

Howard says she would like the city to think more carefully about the grant distribution process in the future and ensure the money is accessible to grassroots groups who may not have the ability to navigate the bureaucracy often involved in the disbursement of grants.

Alyson Ferguson provides assessment and support to community groups through the Scattergood Foundation. She said funders should provide technical assistance to nonprofits in addition to funds.

“People wear so many hats in nonprofits and we don’t make it easy for them when it comes to grant contracts,” she said. “As funders we need to be mindful of when we are providing capacity building, ensuring there is support for staff time or even a blanket for an individual to think about the ‘opportunity or work with the liaison.’

She said that in an ideal world, funders would provide the full grant amount to organizations all at once and then ask for proof of expenditure at the end.

“I think now is the time for government entities and philanthropies to trust the nonprofits doing the work on the ground,” she said. “And focus on providing enough dollars up front that organizations really have a track to get their work up and running.”

Look forward

Atwood said she is keeping the critics in mind as the city moves forward with plans to support community anti-gun violence programs.

In July, the administration set aside $20 million for Anti-Violence Community Expansion Grants. Of this amount, $13.5 million goes directly to grants for organizations, and the rest is earmarked for evaluation and technical assistance.

The new scholarships are much larger than the targeted community investment grants. Community expansion grants range from $100,000 to $1 million.

Atwood says the city has helped UAC hire additional staff — program managers and communications specialists — so they can more effectively help recipients.

She said she aims to “take the continued stress and trauma out of our community organizations and that they can run their programming in the communities that need it most.”

Mckayla Warwick wears a mask indoors
“There were a lot of false promises made to young people,” Warwick said. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

In January, a UAC survey found that a majority of CEG grant recipients are at least somewhat satisfied with the service they received during one-on-one meetings. However, the results are based on responses from only 13 of the 49 recipients.

Regarding targeted community investment grants, Atwood says she would be “relentless in trying to make sure our grantees get paid.”

For future recipients of Targeted Community Investment grants, UAC creates training videos and adds materials to a self-service portal to provide them with information about the full grant process.

New Leash on Life USA, a nonprofit group that helps rehabilitate people with criminal records by teaching them how to care for rescue dogs, received both a Targeted Community Investment Grant and a grant from community expansion.

CEO Marian Marchese says they had a positive experience on both occasions and were able to use the money from both scholarships to hire an additional social worker, add program participants and pay for a third-party outcome evaluation. She said the requirements to receive the funds weren’t as onerous as what she’s seen with other grants.

“While the city is very careful with everyone who provides the right types of receipts, vouchers and time sheets so that everything can be monitored, they also allow you to do your job so that you can be successful why they you have selected in the first place,” she said.

The Greater Philadelphia YMCA received a Targeted Community Investment Grant to help provide resources to teens and young adults impacted by gun violence. Like New Leash on Life, they had a positive experience with the grant – complimenting the support they received from the grant officer the city assigned to them – but noted that their experience may not reflect that of small organizations.

“You want to make sure you have a healthy mix of organizations,” said Tiffany Thurman, vice president of government affairs at the Greater Philadelphia YMCA. “It will always be a challenge for the city to find that balance when working on grant allocation. Do you provide funding to large organizations that have the capacity and resources to implement strong programming, or do you take a more grassroots approach? »

As of Jan. 20, the city had distributed about $792,000 of the $13.5 million earmarked for community expansion grants. The city will work with UAC to distribute the remaining funding to nonprofits during the one-year grant cycle, which ends in November.


If you or someone you know has been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find bereavement support and resources here.

This article is part of The Balance Sheet: The Roots and Costs of Gun Violence in Philadelphia, a solution-focused series from the collaborative reporting project Broke in Philly. Find more stories here and follow them on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.

About Bradley J. Bridges

Check Also

Celeste Scott, Pittsburgh housing justice attorney, dies at 46

A memorial for the late housing advocate Celeste Scott will be held at the Homewood-Brushton …