Washtenaw Coordinated Funders

Community: Washtenaw County Government/City of Ann Arbor
Population: 10,000+

fundingWashtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are two of five founding partners of an award-winning public-private human services collaborative funding model called Coordinated Funding. In November of 2010, the five founding partners (Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, United Way of Washtenaw County, Washtenaw County, the City of Ann Arbor, and the Washtenaw Urban County Executive Committee) agreed to adopt shared safety net focus areas and goals within six priority areas: aging, early childhood, housing & homelessness, hunger relief, safety net health & nutrition, and school-aged youth.

Goals include:

  1. Understand the full landscape of needs and distribute resources more strategically
  2. Model the collaboration the funders espouse to funded agencies
  3. Leverage each other’s funding and resources
  4. Reduce or eliminate redundancies and streamline processes and procedures
  5. Better coordinate grant-making processes so better informed decisions can be jointly made.


A 2013 independent evaluation of the Coordinated Funding model focused on the model being replicated in other communities. The evaluations findings noted that collaborations possessing the following elements would increase the likelihood of replication: • Local government entities provide a portion of the funding without significant restrictions beyond geography • Government agencies take initial steps to streamline their collective processes • The community possesses a relatively high level of resources compared to need • The community has developed some collaborative plans that focus on shared outcomes for areas of need • A spirit of cooperation already exists among local non-profits • Funding agencies have a history of mutual communication and collaborations • Grantmaking staff are able to dedicate the necessary time to the model Other communities have not only heard about Coordinated Funding, but have also taken steps to model components of it: • Ottawa Province, Canada: This region’s community foundation is creating a public-private collaborative inspired by Coordinated Funding. • Otsego County, MI – This region’s community foundation led the creation of a multi-funder administrative collaborative • Midland County, MI – This region’s United Way and community foundation are creating a single-issue funding collaborative that includes a planning/coordinating component inspired by Coordinated Funding.

Creativity and Originality:

Coordinated Funding has encouraged organizations that might view each other as competitors to work together for the benefit of the community as a whole. In Washtenaw County, this is the first time that key human service funders across both the public and private spheres have agreed to share funding processes and outcomes. The partnership speaks in a concerted voice around community goal-setting and leverage funds from one another to have greater impact across the County. Through ongoing feedback between the public-private funders and grantees, the Coordinated Funders were able to consolidate the existing six priority areas into four – combining hunger relief and nutrition, and connecting early childhood to school-aged youth services. A single funding process has freed up grantees to focus funding on programming versus administrative grant follow up. Another innovative aspect of the process is utilization of a Planning & Coordinating Committee of non-profits for technical training around best practices and sector leadership. Coordinated Funders also provide targeted capacity building grant funding of smaller or developing human service providers for back-office support, leadership development, program development, and other needs. What was once a pilot initiative in 2010 has provided ongoing data driven results, and grantee satisfaction, helping convince governing boards both public and private to continue this initiative.

Community Impact:

In the previously described priority areas, the model promotes common program outcomes, enhanced collaboration among nonprofits, and enhanced nonprofit operational capacity. This effort involves better sharing of information among the funders, closer work with local nonprofits to establish common community goals, and increased cooperation in funding decisions. This ongoing communication allows the funders to identify potential service redundancies and gaps. This year, the Coordinated Funders awarded $4.5 million to 67 programs at 38 agencies. The funding is for program operations serving the most vulnerable in our community. The Coordinated Funders are currently engaged in evaluation to determine the measurable impact of funding on the common outcomes. Additional funding partners have also joined the initial group: the private family RNR Foundation and the nonprofit hospital system, St. Joseph Mercy Health System. The now seven member partnership has helped build additional grantee capacity building and programming services, and provided analysis of the Coordinated Funding’s effectiveness. Coordinated Funding also has recently attracted funding from outside the partnerships, as well, with the Michigan Health Endowment Fund contributing $380,000 into the model. The partnership has also successfully preserved public funding for the nonprofit sector. Seeing the significant leverage of safety net service program funding, local elected officials have voted to preserve grant funding to Coordinated Funding even with within an increasingly tight local government budget.

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Project Documents:

Summary Report


Project Multimedia: