Each year for about the last 20 years, the City of Malibu gives local nonprofit organizations the opportunity to apply for grant money. This year, 25 groups asked for a total of $495,361—even though only $150,000 in grant money was available. The general fund grants come out of the City’s General Fund, which is expected to be $30.20 million during fiscal year 2020-21.
It’s up to the administration and finance subcommittee, which currently consists of city council members Skylar Peak and Rick Mullen, to pore over the grant applications and recommend how much each group should get. On the application forms, the groups explain what they do, why they want the money and how much they need. Nearly all of them ask for more money than they know they’re going to get.
“It’s not an easy position for Skylar and I to be in,” Mullen said at the committee’s virtual meeting on Monday, June 29. “If it were up to us, we’d allocate the full amounts requested.”
At Monday’s special Zoom meeting, each applicant was given the opportunity to address the city. Because of technical difficulties, some individuals didn’t get a chance to speak—though it seemed the speech was basically a formality anyway. Peak came prepared with a list of the amounts he wanted to give each group, and Mullen was also prepared with some figures.
The Boys & Girls Club of Malibu (BGCM) has been getting the lion’s share of the grant funds in recent years, and this year was no exception. They requested $150,000 and got $100,000. The club provides services like after-school programs, free mental health counseling and mentorship to Malibu public school students. In addition, BGCM has taken on the responsibility of buying and delivering groceries to seniors and food to insecure families during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Seven groups that applied for grants walked away empty-handed: Malibu CART, Nature of Wildworks, Optimist Club of Malibu, Poison Free Malibu, Priorities Center, Malibu Aquatics Foundation and Sea Save Foundation.
This was the first year the Optimist Club had ever applied for a general fund grant. The group’s president, Tarek Shraibati said, like many other groups did, that it’s been difficult to raise enough money during the coronavirus crisis to keep up all of their usual programs benefitting students, including scholarships and essay contests.
The Shark Fund, which raises funds for Malibu Middle and High School grades six to 12, pays for various arts and athletic programs, as well as things like robotics and software that the school district doesn’t pay for. They asked for $100,000, but only got $1,000.
Teresa Earle, representing the Shark Fund, told the subcommittee that their funds had been “nearly eradicated” and that now is a “truly tough time” despite fundraising efforts.
A couple of lucky groups got everything they asked for.
Malibu Search and Rescue Team—a volunteer group that operates as part of the LA County Sheriff’s Department—was awarded all of the $10,000 it requested. Its application said, “Our team’s two-way radios need to be replaced, as they have been in service a number of years and take a beating given the terrain and obstacles we encounter, including going over the sides of canyon roads to rescue drivers.”
Speaking on behalf of the rescuers were Brian Guerrero and Neil Thornhill.
“We’re an essential first-responder service, there’s no charge for our services, and we’re all-volunteer,” Thornhill said. “The right equipment is key to our success. We’ve had 25 call-outs so far this month alone.”
Mullen was totally on board, saying, “So many people are now lured out here by social media to do things like jump off Rindge Dam.”
The other group that got 100 percent of the $3,500 it asked for was Meals on Wheels.
The remaining groups were awarded anywhere from $500 to $2,000 each, despite asking for much more. The complete list of applicants is on the city website.
By the end, Mullen said, “There are organizations I had no idea about, like Malibu Women’s Club. And they’re doing a lot for the community, and it’s super impressive.”
Peak wrapped up by saying, “It’s hard being asked for over $500,000 and only being able to deliver a fraction of that.” He suggested council leave a reserve of $7,000 in the grant fund in case any urgent need comes up during the year.
The final grant awards must still be approved by city council and are on the agenda for council’s July 13 meeting.