Filling a need: Where government and nonprofits intersect

As part of Xpress’ Nov. 19 Nonprofit Issue, we asked several community leaders for their thoughts about the work nonprofits perform in our community. Here’s what Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman David Gantt had to say.

Mountain Xpress: What role do nonprofits play in our community?

David Gantt: Nonprofits play a huge role in the County’s ability to provide both core services and extended benefits for our citizens. Buncombe County sets our financial policy based on a priority system that initially makes sure we are providing the core services such as emergency, fire, rescue, law enforcement, education, mandatory social programs. We ask all community groups, including nonprofits, to send us a proposal of how they can provide these services at a lower cost than the county government could offer. We then ask staff to review these proposals, schedule them for a public discussion with Commissioners, and decide which, if any, of the nonprofits can help us deliver core or extended programs that will help our County meet our objectives and goals. If a nonprofit is selected by the Commission to provide a service, the group will agree to a one-year performance contract, open all books to County staff, provide an audited financial statement … During the year, a citizen-led group will review performance and benchmarks established under the contract terms and publish a visual report on how the nonprofit is carrying out the desired program … This performance review and benchmarking is used by the Commission in deciding whether to continue or terminate the one-year contract.

What role should they play?

Nonprofits should play a large role in partnering with local, state and national governments to provide necessary and desired services to taxpayers. All levels of government should avoid “recreating the wheel” of more and duplicative government-driven service when a local nonprofit can fulfill the need by contracting with government to deliver carefully defined assistance or programming. Buncombe County saves huge amounts of taxpayer money by (1) identifying a specific need, (2) partnering by contract with an organization that is set up to provide the need in a cost-effective way, and (3) carefully monitoring the progress and success/failure of the nonprofit to deliver agreed upon benchmarks or results by ongoing and periodic reports … In short, I believe that partnering with existing nonprofits gives our citizens the best possible delivery of desired services at the lowest possible cost.

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