City News

The city of Sedona’s annual small grants program hit a snag this summer, which led City Council to decide it was time to revamp and simplify the process for everyone involved.

Council spent an hour going over the current requirements of those nonprofits seeking grants during its Tuesday, Dec. 13, meeting. The purpose was to give staff direction as to whether or not the application and screening process could simply be tweaked or a complete overhaul was needed.

According to a city report, the small grants program was created in order to encourage and fund activities, programs or events developed by 501(c) organizations that serve a public purpose, provide a fair return value to the city and are consistent with the city’s funding priorities. Programs, activities or events that may be funded include those that enhance the city’s commitment to arts and culture, civic and community service that fosters the well-being and prosperity of the city and its residents.

A citizen committee was formed to go through the grant application and make recommendations to the council. Twenty-six grant applications were received totaling $253,900 in requests for the categories of arts and culture, community building and economic stimulation. The grants committee recommended distributing just $128,400 of the budgeted $150,000. The report states that the chairman of the work group vetted the grant applications for completeness, reproduced and distributed the applicants to the reviewers, led the evaluation process, scheduled the applicant interviews and summarized committee recommendations for grant awards to the city.

In a subsequent meeting, council allocated the remaining $21,600, mostly to those organizations that were slated to receive no funding.

“This year things were a little bit different,” Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn said. “This year’s citizen committee was very focused on that funding criteria established by council several years ago. They deliberated over it, trying to find a consensus amongst them as to how to interpret that criteria. And they used that interpretation to make their funding decisions.

“But when funding decisions and corresponding rationale came back to council, there was no consensus among the council that they got the interpretations right in terms of how it was interpreted or applied to those funding recommendations.”

Direction from council to staff at the Dec. 13 meeting was that the city will no longer restrict grant applications to the three categories listed above. Instead, the city will entertain applications for programs, projects or activities done by non-profits that can demonstrate benefit to the community.

Council said that eligible programs, activities or events should:

  • Promote public health, safety, general welfare, prosperity or contentment.
  • Significantly impact the well-being and prosperity of Sedona residents in the areas of arts and culture, community building or economic stimulation.
  • Demonstrate that city funding is essential to the success of the program or service.
  • Directly benefit city of Sedona residents and preferably occur within the city limits.
  • Strive for programs that are innovative and distinctive.
  • Provide documented benefits directly to city of Sedona residents.

The council also does not want the existence of a building fund to necessarily exclude anyone from receiving funding and they don’t want to have a practice of automatically weaning grantees after a certain amount of time. But, their ability to demonstrate financial need vs. self sustainability will continue to be a factor in making funding decisions. Finally, council said organizations can’t double dip and get grant funds if they are getting city funding through other mechanisms.


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