Cortes Foundation: more grant opportunities; the shared social workplace & more

Manda Aufochs Gillespie announced two new grant offerings, the new shared workplace in the Village Commons and much more, in a Cortes Island Community Foundation update yesterday. 

“It has been a really busy year,  and I am so excited about where we are,  and this community that we get to serve. I’d love to tell you about some of the things that maybe you’ve been hearing about that are happening right now and some of the things that you and everyone can look forward to hearing more about this summer and as the year progresses,” she began.  

“We are very excited to again have some funds that we’re getting to grant into the community.” 

“As a community foundation, we are still finding our way as to what that means and how we are most relevant to this community. The longer we’re doing this, the more that we realize that we’re a pretty different community foundation than most of those community foundations that are out there.”

“For instance, the Vancouver Foundation has I’m not sure how much money, but I think in the matter of billions in their endowment. They’re able to use that endowment to support the good works of many, many different community organizations, particularly those based in and around Vancouver, but also throughout the province.” 

“The Cortes Island Community Foundation does not have an endowment of any size. We don’t have money that is sitting in a bank, or that is invested, that earns a bit of principle that then we grant from.  From the beginning we decided we can wait or follow a model of a community foundation that is about earning money,  saving it up, investing it well, and then spending it out. When we look around us,  it’s clear that the organizations in our community need resources now. They need human resources, financial resources and social resources today.” 

“Since our founding just a few years ago, we have managed to leverage over three and a half million dollars directly into the community without needing to have an endowment. This has been in no small part because of luck.  I would like to say it’s because of the genius of all those involved, which I’m sure has something to do with it, but mostly it’s been luck. We’ve come into existence at a time when the government of Canada has made available, pretty much for the first time ever,  a series of funds aimed at helping smaller community foundations immediately have impact in their communities.” 

“In the last year and a half, we were able to participate in a fund called the Gender Equity Fund, and this originally brought $40,000 of money for us to grant into the community and required us to do a bunch of internal work around ensuring that we had policies, procedures and our own internal operations were in line with a gender equity lens.” 

“Partially because of this work, we started looking at the situation for women and gender queer on the island and uncovered quite a few interesting facts, such as women on the island  make up the majority of earners on the island and make roughly 35% less than male workers on the island.”

“In the nonprofit sector, the women are highly represented.  I think that this gender equity gap deeply impacts the nonprofit sector. We also revealed through some of that research,  just what a difficult situation it is for single parents on the island because of our lack of full time childcare.  Without childcare it’s almost impossible for a single parent family to work. We’re seeing very low incomes  for single parent families on the island, way, way below the poverty line. It is difficult even for families even with two parents, because one of them and that’s often the woman,  doesn’t have access to work because of the need to provide child care.”

“We were able to grant from that fund. Also, we were able to do research together to better understand our community and our makeup. We were also able to receive funds last year from the COVID recovery funds, we were able to grant over $100,000 dollars into the community to the nonprofits here specifically around strategic and program development.” 

“We also just received a gender equity fund top up of $200,000.”

They had only been able to partially fund some projects through the initial $40,000, “now we’re able to fully fund some of those projects.”

“We have been chosen to participate in another one of these Community Foundations of Canada and Government of Canada funds called the Prosperity Fund, which will again move about $100,000 of funds, particularly for those organizations that are working on poverty alleviation into the community through our community granting process.”

“This is pretty exciting for an organization that does not have a big endowment.” 

“We were able to do a second round of our pilot project with the Giving Well, which is direct gifting into the community.” 

“And we also this year ran another round of Microgrants 4 Neighbours, which are small grants, usually about $500 that help neighbors put something into action. Often that will be a fun event, but sometimes it’s also to seed something more ongoing or larger. Those will be announced relatively soon as well.” 

“This is pretty exciting for us,  that we continue to be able to help the amazing community organizations of the island do the work that they do to serve this community, to keep it alive and functional.” 

“It’s not the only way that we  are trying to help serve the nonprofits on our island. We’d like to use the term ‘social profits.’ The reason we do that is because there’s a bunch of different organizational structures that organizations  can have, but what they share in common is this idea that they’re serving the social benefit of our community.  It’s not for any one person’s financial gain, but it is really for the social benefit of the community.”

“One could say that most small business owners on Cortes are also actually social profits.  They’re certainly not making big profits and we need them, but we have fewer tools to support businesses as a community foundation versus community organizations. We have tools such as grants that we’re able to support with, but we are also working on accessing and resourcing other tools where we help to organize the social profit network, which is a loose network of all of the organizations and people who volunteer for the organizations on Cortes and that network. We try to help do things such as bring together the executive directors and project managers to help them become more effective,  to help them stay in relation with each other, to help them find other sources of income beyond what we can grant, etc.”

“We also try through that network to do board development and education. We’re looking to do more around volunteer appreciation, et cetera, because again, all of these community organizations share 1 thing in common, if nothing else, which is they exist for the social good of Cortes and they rely on neighbors to keep them going.”

“We are in the middle of constructing the first ever shared social profit workspace on Cortes (See illustration at top of page) , where people will be able to have access to a workspace, to be able to have private meetings, to work on their computer, have internet. We hope we’ll be able to outfit it with computers  so people can get out of their homes and work in a space that is relatively quiet, that is designed for it and where they can have interactions with each other on a daily, easy basis.” 

“If you walk over to the Village Commons, you can see the beginning of that construction being led by Richard Andrews.”  

Cortes Currents: How big is it going to be?  

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The shared workspace itself will have two parts to it. There’s a washroom in the middle, and then there’s a private meeting space that can have 12 people around a table. It’s not huge. You wouldn’t be able to have a large Folk University event or something like that, but a private tutor session or a private meeting,  even a smaller board meeting can all happen there. We’re working towards coming up with the funds to be able to set it up. It can be hybrids. Meetings can happen. They’re relatively easy as well.”

“Then the other side of it will have 2 private zoom booths. So people can be in there having zoom meetings, be relatively quiet and not disturb the rest of the people working there.  Then more of a  counter type space where I think we can have about six people  working at any one time. You would  be sharing a workspace that is larger than the FOCI building, but not as large as most people’s homes.”

“One of the things that the Cortes Island Community Foundation is really proud of, is our work with helping incubate or support the development of some of the initiatives on Cortes that we’ve gotten kind of to play with over the last few years.”

“I just mentioned the Village Commons, that’s one example. The Cortes Island Academy is another example. We were the umbrella organization that helped foster that organization. We’re doing something similar with Cortes Literacy and Folk University.” 

“In part because of this relationship with Folk University, we also have been trying to figure out a way to continue to foster live music and entertainment on Cortes. Last year,  under the tent in the Village Commons area, we held a whole series of live music events during the FolkU radio spots, every Friday from 1:00 to 2:30. This will continue in 2024. We will bring the tent back out and hold these live music events on Fridays at 1:00. It’s amazing what happens when the community comes together to sing, to dance, and listen to music.”  

“We’re working in really close partnership with the Southern Cortes Community Association and Manson’s Hall, as well as the radio station. These events are tied in to and supportive of the Friday market, and the radio. It’s part of our value proposition that everything’s better in partnership with each other.” 

“We’re just  bit by bit trying to  serve this community and make it easier to serve to do  the work that all these nonprofits and individuals that care so much about the community are doing.”

Top image credit: Village Commons shared work space design – ’the nook’

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