A new chief officer has been appointed to the Mayor’s Office of Grants, which has helped secure more than $48 million in federal and philanthropic investments since its establishment in 2012.
Ashley Del Bianco, a veteran of the Office of Innovation & Technology, was appointed to the position last month by outgoing mayor Michael Nutter. She succeeds Maari Porter, who helped found the office. Porter was recently named the executive director of Philanthropy Network Greater Philadelphia.
The grants office, Del Bianco explained, functions as the city’s “strategic arm for seeking grant funding.”
In 2014, for example, with support from the grants office, Philadelphia was selected as one of only three cities nationwide for a Promise Zone designation, a federal initiative led by the White House. The ten-year designation will bring support and attention to distressed areas of West Philadelphia and prioritize the Promise Zone for federal assistance.
Other roles of the office include writing grants for city government and convening regional stakeholders in the pursuit of federal, state, and private funding opportunities.
“Bringing resources to the city is a major part of what I’m here to do,” Del Bianco said. “We want to continue to be as competitive and proactive as possible.”
Although her position is fully funded, Del Bianco acknowledged that changes to the grants office could occur under a new mayoral administration in 2016.
“I think realistically it’s the type of place where a new mayor would want to do something different with it,” she said. Despite that uncertainty, Del Bianco is taking a long-term approach to her work.
“My goal is to make sure that the incoming administration knows this [office] is a resource and to be flexible to its policies,” she added.
The Mayor’s Fund
Along with leading the grants office, Del Bianco serves as the executive director of the Mayor’s Fund for Philadelphia, a separate, nonprofit organization.
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One of the purposes of the Fund is to make grants, but it also serves as an important fiscal administrator, overseeing between $7 and $10 million per year. Most of the funds are private philanthropic dollars earmarked for specific projects, Del Bianco said.
Initiated in 1986 by Wilson Goode, the Fund was formalized by the Nutter administration in 2012. The Fund awards small and mid-sized grants to organizations and city agencies, totaling approximately $300,000 per year. Grants are supported by revenue generated from the Philadelphia Marathon.
The Fund’s application process is open, but projects must fit within the Mayor’s policy priorities and earn the support of an executive sponsor — either the mayor or a deputy mayor.
“We want the spirit of it to be, ‘How can you make the argument that the proposal will serve residents of Philadelphia in some way, shape, or form?” Del Bianco said.
Projects the Mayor’s Fund have supported include Fun Safe Philly Summer, the city’s clearinghouse to access summer activities, camps, and food programs, and Performances in Public Spaces, an outdoor public concert series.
Image via Mayor’s Office of Grants-30-
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