A big grant coming to a Marshalltown area agency will boost the help it’s giving to other nonprofits around the nation. Dave DeValois with Mid-Iowa Community Action explains the agency, called MICA, has a local division that helps low-income families in central Iowa, and another branch that does a unique job — financial rescue for nonprofits who’ve gotten themselves in trouble. They call it a peer-to-peer group, which is dispatched throughout the country to help the other agencies get back on their feet so they can get back to helping local low-income people. MICA went through its own crisis a few years back, and learned so much from tis recovery that it started counseling other nonprofits. DeValois says the peer-to-peer group goes in and recommends changes in record-keeping, financial management, even the local agency’s personnell…but they’re only recommendations. The National Services Division of MICA has never helped a client in Iowa, but DeValois says any nonprofit, anywhere, can find itself well-intentioned but lacking in financial organization. They’ve gone to agencies on the east and west coasts and in the midwest — fifteen agencies in the past year that’ve had their problems corrected and were able to get back to work serving low-income people. The division has financial experts that look through the record-keeping and accounts of a local agency that’s been surprised to find itself in debt, find all the money and find a way they can get back on their feet. He says it’s a four- or five-day process of going through the books, and then the team may return to handle interim for weeks or even months until the problems are corrected. He says Iowa’s community-action agencies generally are in good health, and their services haven’t been needed here in the state. He says “we’re just community-action people helping other community-action people, not an agent of the government.” The team help-ed fifteen agencies this past year, and got more calls for help than it could accept. The agency’s just gotten some good news from Washington. Its National Services Division just got a 750-thousand dollar grant, there’s a half-million dollars every years for five years for the peer-to-peer crisis-intervention team, and 250-thousand a year for two years for the National Community Action Management Academy, which counsels agencies to try and prevent serious financial problems.
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