Homer Foundation considers restructuring grant program as more nonprofits apply

Jun 7, 2019

Credit Courtesy of the Homer Foundation

More nonprofits are applying for Homer Foundation grants. And since the foundation funds all eligible nonprofits that apply, its contributions to each organization has shrunk. But at a listening session Thursday with the Homer Foundation, nonprofits said even small contributions were critical to their work.

The Homer Foundation receives most of its grant money through an annual allocation from the City of Homer and endowment funds from the city as well as neighboring Kachemak City.

Homer Foundation Executive Director Joy Steward told about 15 representatives of local nonprofits and officials Thursday that the foundation received nearly $28,000 last year.

"And if the city allocates a $25,000 line item in their next budget cycle, we could end up (with their $25,000) a total of $31,865," she said.  

The City of Homer has provided relatively stable funding for the foundation's grant program over the past few years. But the number of applicants for that money has been growing steadily. Grants now range from $1,000 to $4,000.  

That may not seem like much. But Adele Person with the Bunnell Street Arts Center said it's important that nonprofits keep receiving that money because it helps them leverage grants from state and federal governments and other organizations.

"Every dollar that the city allocates brings in a hundred outside dollars," she said. "I mean, it's like the pennies on the dollar, and for every federal grant that we apply for or government, foundation or corporate grant, showing the city investment is a real vote of confidence that this is a legitimate organization who's providing real services to the community in which it is situated."

Other nonprofits echoed Person.

Foundation president Steward said all 14 nonprofits that received foundation grants last year brought in an additional $2.4 million from state and federal governments and outside entities.

Some organizations like the Homer Community Food Pantry also made it clear that the money from the foundation itself is still important. Thomas McDonough is the president of the food pantry's board.

"The money that we get, we want to give that out to people that are in need of food and emergency services," he said. "So basically, the more we can take in, the more we can try and satisfy this ever-growing need in our community."

Steward said the Homer Foundation is open to finding ways to restructure the grant program.

"We can limit the number of people that get a grant," she said. "We can make it more competitive. We could limit it by sector. And so instead of applying every year, you'd be applying every second or every third year, and the arts and culture gets this year and the environment and whatever gets this year."

Steward said there are plans to pull in more funding for the program from some of its donors and there is also hope that the City of Homer will consider allocating more funds to the foundation.

Homer city council member Rachel Lord said there are many factors at play when thinking about increasing funding for the Homer Foundation. But she said the growing number of grant applications is helpful in order to demonstrate the need for more money.

"It's really great for that to be a program that is valuable to the community, and that we can say: 'people are applying for this, the need is increasing'" she said. "That gives us more to bring to the table as far as how can the city effectively help in some way."

Steward said the foundation may hold yet another listening session on the issue, but it's unclear if or when that may happen.