A Cincinnati Council member is proposing significant changes to the way the city funds human services and other outside nonprofits.
Although this funding is less than 4% of the city’s $474 million General Fund, it dominates public and council discussion during budget season.
The city budget has two mechanisms for funding third-party organizations: the Human Services Fund (administered by the United Way of Greater Cincinnati), and “leveraged support” funding, which includes funding for human services, neighborhood support and economic development.
Council Member Meeka Owens has introduced a motion asking the city administration to create a new process for leveraged support where organizations formally apply for funds. Owens says under the current system, council members spend a lot of time in meetings with nonprofits lobbying for money.
“When we’re talking about taxpayer dollars and us doing the job that people elected us to do, we don’t want to waste time,” Owens said. “And so information and education is often power in being able to make those decisions. And so I’m looking for a much more organized, streamlined process.”
The motion stipulates that the process “should make it clear to applicant organizations that support is intended to be a one-time allocation.” That could be a major change for organizations that have received leveraged support funding for the past several years.
Owens says the changes would give smaller organizations a greater opportunity for funding, but she’s also trying to bring more transparency to the process.
The Human Services Fund (HSF) is a subset of leveraged support. It’s administered by the United Way, which processes applications and distributes the actual money to organizations. Awards are decided by a volunteer board using a rubric of priorities set by council.
In a separate motion, Owens proposes restructuring the HSF to maximize potential impact. She’s asking for a third of that pot each year to go to one organization or project – what she’s calling an Impact Award.
To read more and see details about organizations the city has funded in the past, go to: