Metro Homelessness commissioners are hoping to replenish the depleted board of its nonprofit fundraising arm, but the long-term future of the entity known as The Key Alliance is still unclear.
A City Paper story earlier this week on the breakdown of The Key Alliance’s board  spurred three individuals to approach the Metro Homelessness Commission about filling the nonprofit’s recent board defections, former Metro Councilman Erik Cole, the homelessness commission’s chair, said Wednesday.
“The immediate needs, as I understand them, are bring the board back up to an appropriate level,” Cole said at the commission’s executive committee meeting Wednesday.
“It’s not a good option, I don’t think, for it to simply end.”
The Key Alliance, launched in 2009 as the private fundraising apparatus to fund Metro homelessness initiatives, is in disarray after the Metro Department of Law advised that city employees shouldn’t also represent the nonprofit, as they had under the existing structure. According to city attorneys, however, the alliance’s mission is legal.
What was an eight-member board earlier this year is now down to just two members, one shy of the necessary three members to be a registered 501(c) 3, according to state statute. The two remaining board members are Vice Mayor Diane Neighbors and Howard Gentry, former Metro vice mayor who currently serves as Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk.
Neighbors has agreed to be The Key Alliance’s treasurer, according to Cole.
Carolyn Grossley, interim director of the homelessness commission, said Key Alliance funds are currently being used to provide rental assistance for two people through January. She said the nonprofit currently has a balance of $42,000, but suggested it might actually be lower.
Moving forward, Cole suggested bringing in a new “fiscal agent” to fill The Key Alliance’s role such as the Nashville-based nonprofit The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. Cole made the same suggestion in an interview with The City Paper last week.
Cole said the commission would eventually put forth a formal recommendation. Its next meeting is in September.
The Key Alliance has fallen short of its financial goals. The homelessness commission’s 2009-2010 annual report said it was “positioned” to raise $35 million over the next five years, $20 million which would be from the private sector.
Yet in Key Alliance’s 2010 income tax returns (the most recent available), the group reported revenue of $65,531 from contributions, gifts and grants. Fundraising events for that year produced a net of only $6,150.
Gentry, a longtime homeless advocate, said Wednesday that’s he’s ready to “revisit” previous options to create a homelessness fundraising arm. “The fact is, we just need to move to a place where it legally works,” he said.
Gentry added that the third Key Alliance board member would “need to be able to raise money.”
Homeless advocate Jim Johnston made continual verbal outbursts at Wednesday’s meeting demanding answers to various questions about The Key Alliance. Cole threatened removing Johnston from the meeting, but he allowed him to stay.