More than 40 nonprofits in DuPage County receive some degree of funding from the county's Human Services Grant Fund, which vets and approves money for agencies that improve the quality of life for residents.
In the nearly two decades the fund has existed, it has become a million-dollar source of revenue for the agencies it aids, which range from addiction treatment facilities to homeless shelters. Since its inception, said Mary Keating, DuPage County director of community services, the Human Services Grant Fund has been a "recognition by the county of the important work that nonprofits do."
Nonprofit organizations considered for funding go through an extensive screening process, Keating said. They must be operational within the county for a minimum of three years and provide a direct and basic human service to the residents of DuPage County. Those that have a track record of assisting the poor and have worked with the county previously are preferred.
There is also an application process that includes financial assessments and submission of a detailed monetary request plan.
Qualified agencies are graded on a scale that awards a percentage of requested funds – ranging from 90 percent to the minimum of $3,391. Keating said that almost $2 million in requests were made last year.
"There are quite a few different areas of need in the community, and the more areas you can touch, the more good you're doing," said County Board member Rob Larsen. "On the other side of the coin, having this stamp of approval from the county helps them raise funds and helps them perform their job."
Keating said that the fund's rigorous approval system ensures that agencies awarded recognition are stable, transparent and trustworthy.
Executive Director of Sharing Connections Chris Cholewa said that the grant gives her furniture bank the ability to better serve those who have recently moved into housing, but don't have the income for furniture. This year, the organization asked for $48,000 and received $18,400. But she said that the opportunity to network with other service providers in the area alone has been worthwhile.
"We, like others, don't duplicate services," she said. "Everyone refers their clients to us, and we only do our job. We're not doing social work, we're not doing anything else, we can focus on what we're good at."
Becky Beilfuss, executive director of the Teen Parent Connection in Glen Ellyn, said that her organization used the funds to provide an array of services for young parents.
"Really our goal is to build that seamless avenue of care so families who need it can be taken care of," she said. "We don't have to reinvent the wheel because there are already experts out there doing housing or mental health."
County Board member Larsen said that by cultivating nonprofit interactions and providing an unofficial endorsement, the county can make a greater impact for its dollar.
"There is a lot of need in this county, but there are a lot of organizations out there looking to help people in need," he said. "Some guidance and maybe a little bit of seed money can get those resources pointed in the right direction."