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Crime-grant selection enters final round

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A smaller budget and new selection process for Indianapolis’ crime-prevention grant program has thrown some local not-for-profits for a loop.

Several organizations that received funding in the past were eliminated in the first round of evaluations this year, and that won’t be the end of the disappointments. The selection panel will chose grantees from 27 finalists on Friday, and the awards will be announced June 1.

The selection process changed this year when the City-County Council put administration of the program in the hands of the Indianapolis Parks Foundation, an effort to make the program less political and possibly draw private sources of funding. The crime-prevention grants are funded at the council's discretion through income-tax revenue.

Previously, an advisory board made recommendations, and the council then changed or approved them. Under the new process, the parks foundation nominated an independent seven-member selection panel. One of the members is a mayor's appointee, and another is the clerk of the council.

This year, the parks foundation fielded 115 applications seeking $12 million, executive director Cindy Porteous said. But because of the city's ongoing budget crunch, the council cut the grant funds by more than half. Last year 68 organizations divvied up about $4 million. With only $1.7 million for grants this time, 88 organizations were eliminated from contention in the first round.

Porteous said she’s met or spoken with executives from several of those groups. “There were disappointments,” she said.

Travis DiNicola, executive director of the literacy group IndyReads, said he thought his organization would get further consideration because research shows a link between literacy rates and crime. IndyReads last year received $24,000 to help place volunteer tutors in city jails, but this year was eliminated after submitting a brief description of its program, as requested.

DiNicola said he thought the chance to make a strong case would come later. “I think the process was one that was confusing,” he said.

Adding to the crunch: The parks foundation is trying to make a more noticeable impact with a smaller budget, so it is raising the minimum grant amount to $50,000.

Porteous said a number of applicants weren’t sure how they would pay for their programs, other than with the city’s grant. Next year, she’d like to offer any not-for-profit that’s interested training on where else to look for crime-prevention grants and how to land them. “We think we have the capacity to do that as well.”

 

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