MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 21, 2013

Competition for foundation grants gets tougher

City of Muskogee Foundation gets crop of good grant applications

— Competition for grants that will be awarded in June by the City of Muskogee Foundation appears to be tough this year.

Frank Merrick, the foundation’s executive director, said it looks like this “will be the first year we will have to turn down good grants.” In the past, Merrick said, the foundation has “had more money than good grant” applications.

Grants Administrator D.J. Thompson said the foundation received 53 letters of inquiry for this year’s regular grant cycle. Those who submitted inquiries were seeking funds totaling more than $7 million.

Of the 53 letters of inquiry, board members asked 40 applicants to complete the application process. Those 40 grant applicants are requesting funds totaling almost $5.14 million, more than the foundation’s 2013 grant budget.

Foundation board members approved in December a grant budget totaling $4.25 million this year. A portion of that, however, has been committed for this year’s summer programs that have been awarded grants and various foundation scholarships.

Thompson said the foundation allocated $240,690 for 2013 summer grants and will award about $163,600 as scholarship funds during the 2013-2014 school year. That leaves those 40 applicants competing for a little less than $3.85 million during this year’s regular grant cycle.

Merrick said board members will “have to make some hard decisions” as they winnow the list of applicants from grant recipients and the amount of money awarded. But he said that “is a good problem to have.”

“It’s better than saying, ‘We have this money, now who are we going to give it to,’” Merrick said, noting the significant improvements he has seen during the past five years in Muskogee’s nonprofit community and the quality of proposed grants. “Clearly, we will not be able to fully fund everything that has been requested.”

Thompson said the number of letters of inquiries received this year exceeded the 40 submitted in 2012 seeking $4.2 million. Of those initial requests, grants totaling $3 million were awarded to 30 applicants. In 2011, the foundation received 68 letters of inquiry submitted with requests totaling more than $10 million and awarded $4.4 million.

The City of Muskogee Foundation is a nonprofit corporation formed in 2008 by the city to develop, support and promote programs designed to improve the quality of life in Muskogee. The foundation is funded with proceeds from the 40-year lease of EASTAR Health System, formerly known as Muskogee Regional Medical Center, to Capella Healthcare. A portion of its returns on the investment of that money is used to fund grants designed to promote its mission.

Its board of directors — made up of nine at-large members, two city councilors, the mayor and city manager — is entrusted with overseeing and investing the organization’s assets to meet the foundation’s objectives.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.

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