Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Friday, December 07, 2007

Do healthy neighborhoods require nonprofits?

Wednesday morning I was at a "study session" for grantees of San Jose's "Healthy Neighborhood Venture Fund" (HNVF) to review their new strategic plan. HNVF money is a result of the tobacco settlements, and San Jose has been using the majority of their funds ($10 million) to make grants to nonprofits. Of course, whenever the city's budget comes up, there are those who suggest that the city could better use the HNVF money by adding it to the General Fund and spend it all within city departments.

Back to the study session... part of the agenda was to get together in smaller break-out groups to brainstorm things they may have left out of the implementation plan. The leader of our group asked if we thought that the plan should specify the percentage of HNVF money that would go to nonprofits. Of course, the nonprofit agencies present all thought that would be a great idea. And, of course, the woman in our group from the city library thought it would be a mistake.

My point for putting the percentage into the plan (and taking it out of eternal threat from the General Fund) was not simply self-interest. What I said seemed like common sense to me, but came as a surprise (if a pleasant surprise) to the rest of the group.

My point was this: Putting a commitment to fund nonprofits into the HNVF strategic plan would make a statement that Healthy Neighborhoods require a diverse and vibrant array of community-based nonprofit organizations. And, conversely, that a neighborhood where the providers of needed and desired social services were closing their doors due to lack of funding, is unhealthy.

I would not have made the same statement if the meeting had been for some other city funding source. But it seems to me that supporting local, community-based organizations should be have been a top priority of any "Healthy Neighborhoods" initiative.

Am I asking too much? What do you think?

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