More than 40 non-profit organizations in Winston-Salem will soon be receiving a collective $1 million from the city to promote anti-poverty and social justice efforts.
On Monday evening, city council passed a resolution 6-2 to approve the funding, with Annette Scippio of the East Ward and Robert Clark of the West Ward voting against. The funding, a response to the protests of summer 2020, was allocated by a citizen-led community investments review committee, which made recommendations based on applications submitted by more than 100 organizations.
The grants fall under five categories: social justice and anti-poverty initiatives; long-term anti-poverty and social justice strategies; broadband internet access expansion and training; heritage preservation and education and mentorship; and neighborhood capacity building. The winning applicants range from multi-million dollar organizations such as the Industries for the Blind, the largest organization that got funding, to much smaller, grassroots outfits like afterschool theater and youth programs. The broadband internet access initiative will be administered through the city instead of through an outside organization.
Rev. Paul Robeson Ford, executive director of Action4Equity, one of the grant awardees, said that the $23,200 that they are set to receive will help them “continue their grassroots efforts to empower parents and families who are most impacted by systemic inequities….”
Action4Equity is a Black-led advocacy group that has been building a movement to advance equity for students for the past few years. Some of the organization’s main objectives include a multicultural infusion model for learning as well as an implementation of what they call the “Whole Child Whole Community” agenda, which works to dismantle generational poverty by addressing barriers to learning and health in schools.
“We have not received funding from the city in the past year or ever,” Ford said. “As our city continues to explore ways to dismantle generational poverty, our organization will continue the transformative work of capacity-building within our community. Our goal is to develop thought leadership at the grassroots level that can lead the city’s efforts to achieve justice and equity for all.”
Throughout last year, the city of Winston-Salem partnered with United Way of Forsyth County and the Winston-Salem Foundation to raise more than $4 million for nonprofits. but the $1 million available this time around is markedly different, because rather than city officials making the call, the committee that chose the grantees was made up of 18 citizens from across the city. They were the ones that, in the end, decided how to divvy up the $1 million amongst the more than 40 organizations, with each organization approximately receiving between $10,000 and $30,000. Some councilmembers like Clark and Scippio — who voted in opposition of the resolution — voiced concerns over the smaller amounts going to many organizations rather than prioritizing a few organizations and giving them larger amounts.
“I want to be sure that the money goes to those most in need and to the folks and not to overhead,” Clark said. “My concern is this will not make a difference… and it will not achieve what we want it to achieve. I think we should have picked four or five organizations….”
Scippio echoed Clark’s concerns, stating that a few thousand dollars would not be enough for most organizations to accomplish the goals of anti-poverty or social justice that they initially applied for.
“We’re forcing these groups to not do the programs that they proposed or to scale it back to the extent that it has no impact,” Scippio said. “I’m just concerned about what we’re doing to the nonprofits…. When you give them 20 percent of what they need, that means that have to go out and raise 80…. Only two of the agencies are fully funded.
She continued, “I think that you’re doing a great disservice to the nonprofits by giving them a little bit of money and not enough for them to even try to fulfill the promise which then says we really don’t care about the impact.…”
However, other councilmembers such as Kevin Mundy of the Southwest Ward said that when the council asks citizens for a request, they should respect the results.
“When we ask our citizens to help us, to make recommendations, and to spend time… doing what we ask them to do, if we don’t offer proper guidelines, the proper rules to follow, shame on us,” Mundy said. “I just want to keep top of mind that we asked a committee of citizens to do something for us and they did that.”
Councilmember DD Adams of the North Ward also reiterated that nonprofits are struggling and need this money, no matter the amount.
“The people and groups, the nonprofits that applied for this money, they are in dire need,” she said. “If the nonprofits are not allowed to get money that restaurants, small businesses and the governments and everybody else is getting, how do we expect these agencies to survive and to help us do the heavy lift?”
Scott Best, the executive director of HOPE of Winston-Salem, an organization that fights hunger by providing meals to children, said that the $32,300 they are slated to receive will help fund their weekend meal distributions.
“We are extremely appreciative of being considered for such vital funding,” Best said. “Access to nutritious food for both children and adults will be enhanced for hundreds of families here in Winston-Salem. We sincerely thank the city of Winston-Salem for their ongoing partnership with HOPE of Winston-Salem and are excited to increase our collective impact moving forward.”
To learn more about who received funding, download this document.