Community Services Board may create nonprofit wing

FRONT ROYAL – The Northwestern Community Services Board is considering creating a nonprofit charity and hiring a development officer to write grants,  raise money and oversee volunteers.

Neither the proposed hiring of the development officer nor the move to create the nonprofit were accepted during Wednesday’s board meeting. Instead, the board voted to look further into both proposals.

The Community Services Board, which provides mental health, substance abuse and intellectual disability services, receives all of its money from public funds and patient fees. If enacted, the change would allow the board to receive private donations.

In the meeting on Wednesday, board CEO Michael Elwell said the agency is strapped for funds.

“There’s just no way that we’ll have enough money to satisfy the needs of the community,” Elwell said. “Not even close. We’ve already pretty much maximized all of our resources.”

By creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Elwell said the board could have more funds, allowing it to better address a higher number of substance abuse and mental health patients at a time when the need for both is great.

Elwell said that, in particular, the nonprofit could allow the board to have more unrestricted funds. Most of the organization’s public funding is restricted, only allowing the organization to spend the funds on a particular set of programs.

By contrast, most, though not all, individual donations come unrestricted.

The move to create a new nonprofit is necessary if the organization wants to receive donations from individuals or corporations, Elwell said. Currently, the board must receive all of its funds from public sources or patient fees.

For this reason, several community service boards throughout Virginia have created private nonprofit wings.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Service Board has had a 501(c)3 wing since 1995, according to the nonprofit reporting service GuideStar.

“It’s pretty common for community mental health centers to do this kind of work,” Elwell said.

The private nonprofit would have to have its own board in order to operate, Elwell said. He said he is hoping that members of the Northwestern Community Services Board could also be on the board of the nonprofit.

He said during the meeting that he was going to check with an attorney to see whether that is allowed under nonprofit laws.

In order to deal with new donations coming into the Community Service Board, Elwell proposed the hiring of a development officer.

The development officer would receive between $70,000 and $90,000 per year. Because that person’s job consists of raising funds, Elwell said he didn’t see the person being a financial burden.

“I can guarantee that if that person is effective, then they’ll be able to pull their salary down in a short period of time,” Elwell said.