Municipalities everywhere struggle each budget cycle to make difficult decisions about how to fund crucial human services that serve their most vulnerable populations. Most of this funding goes to contracts with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but many cities are stuck in a rut of funding the same organizations over and over, without good data on their effectiveness or success. Competition in the funding allocation process and rigorous evaluation of outcomes can help achieve better performance and ensure return on investment, but many cities don’t know where to start.
A number of cities are leading the way, revamping the process for requesting, analyzing and processing proposals, for educating and working with nonprofits, and for insisting on and evaluating program results. Those who are can expect to see better outcomes, reduced reliance on federal funding and innovation in human services delivery.
For a recent MIP project, we did some targeted outreach across the country and learned that cities are facing many of the same challenges: poor communication between cities and potential partners; lack of transparency in the funding process; contracting policies or requirements that lead to the same organizations requesting and receiving funding; uncertainty about program outcomes; the list goes on.
We also learned that there are cities that are starting to tackle these issues by improving the quality and presentation of information sent out by the city, and by examining and amending their contracting requirements to allow for a broader range of groups to compete for funding. There’s a big desire for data and evidence – both qualitative and quantitative – to show what is working and to use that information to make future funding decisions.