Second chances: Commissioners offer leniency to several nonprofits | News

Second chances: Commissioners offer leniency to several nonprofits

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Larry Thomas, a mentor with Durham Companions, talks with XZavier McFadden, age 9.
  • Photo by D.L. Anderson
  • Larry Thomas, a mentor with Durham Companions, talks with X'Zavier McFadden, age 9.

In this week’s issue, you’ll see a story about Durham Companions, a nonprofit mentoring program that, despite getting a tongue-lashing a couple weeks ago from county commissioners for poor performance last year, still got funding for the coming year.

In one of the toughest budget years in Durham County history, and one in which county employees are going without raises, workers have been laid off and residents will bear a five percent increase in the property tax rate, some have questioned whether it’s the right time to be giving poorly performing agencies more chances.

But Durham Companions wasn’t the only organization that hit snags in the past year and has gotten a second chance. This year, county commissioners also have agreed to give $151,000 to four other organizations that have had problems in the past year, turning in late financial and program reports and failing to show hard data that their activities were directly working toward their goals.

Each of these groups received low scores recently in a county analysis that ranked nonprofits on their reporting compliance and effectiveness. Because of the groups’ weak performance over the past year, commissioners slashed allotments for each group by about 15 percent.

Here’s how much each organization will receive if they file quarterly reports to the county on time this year:

Operation Breakthrough, which administers several programs for low-income families, including Head Start, will receive $79,390, a cut from last year’s allotment of $93,400.

John Avery Boys & Girls Club, which runs recreational after school and summer programs for children, could receive $35,011, a reduction from last year’s allotment of $41,189.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle, a mentoring program for young adults and teenagers, will receive $27,787, down from $32,690 last year.

Triangle Champions Track Club, which is an athletic program for children with some academic components, could receive $8,873, down from $9,340 they were eligible to receive last year.

John Avery Boys & Girls Club and the Triangle Champions Track Club received funding even after turning their grant applications into the county after the deadline last spring.

Despite performing the worst, Durham Companions received the same amount they got last year, $4,670, and could be eligible for even more money in mid-February if they perform well, commissioners decreed at a meeting late last month.

Some wondered whether it was even fair to consider funding Durham Companions. Commissioner Becky Heron said she saw it as an insult to other organizations who got their applications and all their reports on time. She and other commissioners worried aloud whether they would face a backlash from other agencies, complaining that Durham Companions received unfair treatment, but so far, Heron and other commissioners haven’t received any negative feedback, they said this week.

The county board has promised to be tougher on nonprofits. Where they used to have a 10-day grace period to turn in a quarterly financial or program report, they now have only five days. Agencies will also get only one strike. If they miss a reporting deadline more than once, their funding will cease immediately, according to a letter that recently went out to nonprofit directors.

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