By Ann Marie Quill

Sandy Springs City Council on March 4 voted to streamline how it supports nonprofits, and it omitted language from a revised policy that would have excluded fundraising activities.

Before the unanimous vote, members of the Sandy Springs Society asked the council to reconsider allowing funds for fundraising events.

Kate Dalba, society president, told the council that fundraising should not be a reason to disqualify groups. “Nonprofits can’t live without fundraisers,” she said. She added that two of the group’s signature events — Tossed Out Treasures and the Elegant Elf — support city goals of fostering tourism and cultural development.

Society board member Gail Cohn echoed her concern. “The language is exclusionary for nonprofits that do fundraising,” she said.

She told the council that the society would be accountable for money it raised.

Jan Collins, society co-founder, asked the council to “omit any reference to fundraising. We ask that the Sandy Springs Society be eligible to apply for seed money” for its events. She pointed out that the society has raised some $3 million for local causes in its 25 years.

The new policy was adopted after Mayor Rusty Paul in January asked staff to look at how the city funds nonprofit groups, and develop a “more unified” policy for grants. He has said that the city does not require the same financial reporting from all groups receiving grants, but does not believe the money is being misused.

“There’s just some ambiguity in what’s been done,” Paul had said. “We’re not saying anybody’s doing anything wrong.”

Under the new policy, nonprofits requesting money most provide programs or services that support at least one goal of Sandy Springs’ priorities: public safety, transportation, recreational and cultural development, natural resource protection, community appearance, downtown development or economic development.

The city will also not provide grants to umbrella organizations like Sandy Springs Society that pass awards to other entities.

However, an eligible umbrella organization is welcome to apply for funds for direct programming.

After hearing from the society members, council member Andy Bauman suggested an amendment that would allow grants for a fundraiser as long as the money could be documented as going toward hard costs, such as staging.