Alms Day: Hundreds Beg for Nonprofit Funding at City Hall

Categories: Politics
Matt Smith
A festive Alms Day at City Hall
In this year's iteration of an annual ritual, hundreds of workers and beneficiaries of the public agencies and nonprofits that serve San Francisco's needy mobbed City Hall on Friday.

They all hoped for a chance to speak at a special Budget and Finance Committee hearing to voice outrage about Mayor Ed Lee's $3.4 million in funding cuts affecting 23 nonprofits that serve the poor. Call it Alms Day, in which nonprofits that serve the poor go begging to city fathers.

"Stand up, everyone who supports what I'm about to say," Community Housing Partnership executive director Gail Gilman said as a kickoff to an hours-long session in which potential commenters packed the Board of Supervisors chambers, snaked halfway around the inside of the block-sized building, and filled an additional hearing room to watch the proceedings on video. "Supportive housing is the most effective solution to homelessness. Restore cuts to Health and Human Services."

There are more efficient ways to allocate funding for the needy than annual mau-mau sessions. Here's one: San Francisco could decide upon measurable objectives. The city could then monitor whether agencies achieve those objectives in meaningful ways. And it could then spend tax money where it's most effective to provide the greatest possible benefit. Charities might actually come to appreciate simply having to perform, rather than annually beg for money.

Matt Smith
Alms Day garb
SF Weekly's Joe Eskenazi and Benjamin Wachs explained in Dec. 2009 that, though two-fifths of San Francisco's discretionary budget is spent on nonprofits, mostly to help the needy, the city does almost nothing to systematically measure whether it's doing anybody much good.

Former Mayor Gavin Newsom set back the cause of effective services by generations by touting himself as Mr. Effectiveness, and then quietly politicizing and undermining any agency that attempted to produce real results.

This pattern was exemplified by Newsom's appointment in 2008 of Dariush Kayhan as homelessness czar -- after he'd run the failed nonprofit SF Connect, which had been linked conceptually with Newsom's political promotions. Thus homelessness became a rubric for political dealmaking, grandstanding, and money-wasting.

Matt Smith
If there's a time for getting creative, it's Alms Day
All this was meticulously tracked, Eskenazi and Wachs explained, with piles of meaningless, unusable data.

[Newsom] has an Accountability Matrix and an Accountability Index, and even an Accountability Report. But, sadly, a recent audit noted that these lists were largely redundant and overlapping, and were tabulated independently of one another, a clear waste of effort.

So instead of real cost benefit analysis, we have Alms Day -- which, truth be told, is a genial, festive occasion.

Nonprofit workers and clients mingled for hours Friday, waiting for a turn to speak at the Board of Supervisors podium.

They caught up on old times while reinforcing their shared belief in the cause of helping the poor, the elderly, and the sick.

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Mc Emelines
Mc Emelines

I work for a nonprofit and its no SMALL cut.  These cutbacks have been slicing into our budget over several years and we are fed up!!  How can prices keep rising, yet we keep getting less and less??Our budget can barely cover operation costs let alone serve our clients. We have proven that we get results, so let us continue.


The reason that City leaders gave out so much bidness to "nonprofits" is because all their pals make a lot of money "consulting" and the like, and spend the tax money on mostly benefits to the appointees . .. . just like how Angela A and her pals took almost all of the millions we spend on "housing the homeless" on payroll, expenses, etc . .. . we could have bought up a huge amount of housing for that.  Nonprofs re even less accountable than Angela A and all the rest of the commisioners and other appointees with no merit in positions of authority.  And if you dare to question their finances, you get screeched at, esp with "children's" stuff.  Come on now, no matter how much you spend on "the children" they are NOT all above average and we should focus on ECONOMIC equality by bringing back "blue collar" jobs that pay a living wage, and dropp the salaries onf CEO's etc back to reasonable levels. 


The non-profit mafia industrial complex sure knows how to put on a sideshow.  But that's about all they are good at.


These non-profits are outraged by a small cut???? That is outrageous in these very tough economic times. The people working 2-3 jobs to keep a roof over their heads don't go begging and complaining: they don't have the time.

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