July 5, 2010; Source: The Tennessean | How to depoliticize city government grants to local nonprofits? That’s the question facing the mayor and alderman of Franklin, Tenn. Last year the city gave out $202,731 to nonprofits from the city’s $54 million operating budget. This year, it will give $190,567 to 11 nonprofits from the city’s shrunken $50 million operating budget.

Both years, the city decided to forego the recommendations it received from United Way volunteers. Apparently, to depoliticize city grantmaking to nonprofits, the city had asked UW volunteers to review the applications and make funding recommendations. But with less money to allocate, the aldermen seem interested in making the decisions themselves rather than relying on the volunteers’ analyses.

The mayor is concerned that if the aldermen take to reviewing and making all nonprofit grant recommendations, the process will be slow and time-consuming, but doesn’t seem to want to revert back to reliance on the United Way entirely. Other aldermen are interested in adding more groups to the funding list, though that would mean smaller per-organization grants. Another alderman says that he thinks that making the decisions and reviewing performance is why the aldermen were elected and they shouldn’t give away their responsibilities to UW volunteers.

In the background of the discussion is a hint of questioning why the city should fund nonprofits at all, an obvious response by some pols to declining municipal revenues.—Rick Cohen