Supportive Services Programs in Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities. What are the Principal Sources of Funding for NORC Services Programs?

Sustainable funding is a major challenge facing NORC supportive services programs, and there is little information available about how these programs raise money. We found only one source of information, and that study focused on programs in congregate housing rather than NORCs.50 In that study, Wilden and Redfoot found that funding sources variedy among the 17 subsidized housing projects examined. Programs often relied on an array of public and private funders. Among the 17 projects, 16 had funding from residents, nine from Medicaid, and six from private organizations. Others sources included federal, state, and county government funds.

The subject matter experts agreed that sustainable funding to support NORC services programs over the long term is a major concern. Programs must rely on several sources, including resident fees, fundraising by residents and the programs themselves, contributions by residents' families, and foundation and philanthropic contributions. In addition, some funding may be available indirectly from state entities, such as the Office of Mental Health, to support service programs in a wider area that may encompass the NORC.

Experts were unaware of any major state or federal funding for NORC supportive services programs other than the AoA grants and the money that New York State and the City of New York have devoted to programs throughout that state. Since 1998, New York has allocated approximately $1.2 million annually for supportive services programs. Except for public housing sites, state funds must be matched at the level of at least 25 percent of the total grant by the sponsoring agency. In 2000, New York City allocated $3.8 million to start 16 additional programs with funds matched at the level of at least one-sixth of the total grant by the sponsoring agency. The intention of these matching requirements is to communalize the funding in order to move away from a fee-for-service model and bring the housing entity into the program as a stakeholder and financial partner. Several experts felt that financing shared among federal, state, city, housing management, philanthropy, and residents would be ideal.

Funding implies that the organization or individual providing the funding finds value in the program. Therefore, the availability of sustained funding for NORC services programs might be one indicator of their perceived value, if only to the funders. Residents' willingness to pay a membership or activities fee might be a gauge of residents' valuation of the program, particularly of how well the program identifies and meets residents' needs. However, such fees risk discouraging participation by lower income groups. Developing and implementing outcome measures for programs would allow benefits to be quantified and might be instrumental in attracting sustained support from grantmakers or state or local governments.

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