Cortes Foundation obtains $100,000 grant for Cortes charities and nonprofits 

The Cortes Foundation just signed an MOU, which opens the way for it to receive $100,000 in funding for Cortes Island charities and nonprofits.

In today’s interview Mark Spevakow, Chair of the Cortes Island CommunityFoundation, and Executive Director Manda Aufochs Gillespie explain how this will work.

Mark Spevakow: “ Interested community service organizations on Cortes will be able to submit applications to the Community Foundations of Canada online portal, which we will have a link to from our website. That will be set up by January 6th to accept these applications, and that’s until February 21st.”

 “The MOU is an agreement that’s been signed between us, as the Cortes Island Community Foundation, and the Community Foundations of Canada.  This is for being a member in good standing of the Community Foundations of Canada. At our request, we’ve been able to be included in what’s called the Community Services Recovery Fund.”

“This is a $400 million federal fund that is being distributed through three parent organizations, the Red Cross, the United Way, and the Community Foundations of Canada. Each channel has a different focus.” 

“Funds distributed through the Community Foundations of Canada channel are for investing in systems and processes. This will support one-time projects that invest in systems and processes involved in creating the internal workings of an organization’s overall structure.” 

“We can only accept applications within our foundation’s catchment area. So we are Cortes. That is all we can do. If something is off of Cortes, it doesn’t fall into something that we can be involved with. There is a breakdown for other communities like Quadra and Campbell River.” 

“We have a hundred thousand dollars of funds that will be allocated through us to get to these community service organizations.  Right now, the minimum funding  for those grants would be $10,000. We are trying to have some discussions to see if it might be possible to distribute some amounts that are a little smaller than that, and cover some areas that we may not be able to cover, but we’re not sure yet.”  

“Our specific job is to review all the applications through the assessment criteria lens that we have been provided.”

“I’ve got  a breakdown on this, but basically this is touching on COVID stuff. How COVID has affected or shaped these community service organizations. Is a project viable? Can it be implemented in the timeframe that this funding will be allocated? Does the organization have the capacity to provide the oversight on the project that they’re applying for?  Will this project help the community service organization adapt, modernize, or build resilience? So it’s that type of stuff and, of course, everything now through the Community Foundations of Canada is using an equity lens within the scope of all of its granting.”

Cortes Currents:Do these funds only go to organizations that were negatively impacted by COVID, and not to other organizations that need funding?

Mark Spevakow: “When the funds hit specific communities directly, which is why they’re working with Community Foundations of Canada, it allows us to be the boots on the ground people. To say, ‘This is where these funds really need to go to make the difference to the community to recover, not necessarily for that organization to recover.’” 

Cortes Currents:How will the Community Foundation choose the applications to receive funding? 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The Cortes Island Community Foundation works with a volunteer jury of community members that help to assess the applications coming in.  As with every new organization, we are deeply involved in a process of how to make that jury process as transparent   and effective  as possible.”

“We just finished two jury processes, and there was quite a bit of overlap in those two juries. The first was in making recommendations for the grant-in-aid funding that the Strathcona Regional District does. First with Noba Anderson and then with Mark Vonesch,  the directors,  we were asked to  create an arms length process that would make decision making around who gets funding through that process as equitable and fair and transparent as possible. We asked a number of people from the community, some of who had done something similar before, to sit in on that process. Then we took some of those same people and invited a couple others for the gender equity process.”

“These include Christina MacWilliam and Ayton Novak from our board and then we have invited in other people. These are by and large people in our community who have relationships to the different nonprofits, are Interested in the workings and the nonprofits, but aren’t themselves going after the money. Maybe they don’t work for the nonprofits even, but  understand the community. The idea  is to not just have the usual suspects. The newest jury members this year, on the gender equity grants were  Sadie Reed and  Ester Strijbos (who does the Tideline). These are two of our newest members.”

“The idea is to have a intelligent understanding with a diversity of opinions about these grants. Then we take them through an additional matrix.  Staff presents different understanding of both how prepared the different nonprofits are to fulfill what they’re looking at. But then we also look at such questions as how essential is this service to our community? How essential is it at this time? How capable and appropriate is it for this organization who is applying to do this work at this? What’s the community impact of this? We also look at whether there’s any other organization who might be appropriate to do this work or anyone else who might appropriately fund this work, who has deeper pockets.”

Cortes Currents:  What kind of controls or influence will the community Foundation have over contracts after the funding is granted? I’m thinking in terms of stated objectives and reports or anything of that nature.

Mark Spevakow: “Basically,  our job  is to be the local oversight for that program. There’s an application process and if they are selected, then there’s a follow up process. We’ll just be working with those local organizations to make sure that they’re on top of where they’re spending the money, how they’re spending the money.”

“We don’t have the specifics of exactly what we’re going to be told we have to follow up on, but we’ll just stay on top of that.” 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The only thing that I would add to that is that the Community Foundations of Canada organization, which is our parent organization, is really helping lead this process toward trust-based philanthropy. Because we’re so new and we don’t have a bunch of, let’s say old habits, We have been able to try to move towards that right away.” 

“Trust-based philanthropy means that we’re not trying to create a bunch of extra paperwork or hurdles that make it very hard, particularly for small organizations to be effective and to get things done. We’re not out there to have craps that someone’s going to do wrong. If someone has to change their project a little bit, trust-based philanthropy understands that nobody understands who they’re serving as well as the nonprofits who are doing that serving.  Our mission as the Cortes Island Community Foundation, with these grants is to be there to help make sure they succeed.”

“Nobody wants to take money back from small nonprofits, least of all us. So it’s really about making sure everyone who touches this succeeds in serving the community.” 

Cortes Currents: Is there a way that organizations or endeavours that are not nonprofits or charities can apply or partner to apply? 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: “The first thing I would say is that traditionally community foundations are only able to donate to charities or charitable organizations, which include things like municipalities, many First Nations organizations. As you can imagine, there are a lot of organizations doing fantastic work on Cortes in other places that are not charities, but maybe are just nonprofits. So already, we are ahead of the game in our community because as a new community foundation, we have the most up to date purposes, and as we speak, the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) has been changing their guidelines as to who community foundations can actually support.”

“The recovery funds will be one of the first time that community foundations will be allowed to pass funds on to nonprofits, not just charities.” 

“If you are a person who is not a nonprofit or a charity, but you are running a grassroots organization that is meeting really important needs in the community, then we are going to hope that you will find a nonprofit or charitable partner,  someone whose mission is within the realm of what you’re doing.”

“Maybe you’re doing something that counts as ecological restoration or a social service, something that counts as education.  What  you’ll need to do then is find a nonprofit or charitable partner who wants to take you on, make sure that this project is success with you ,and will be the partner on record.”

“The Community Foundations of Canada are really, really encouraging that community foundations like ours help support grassroots groups to find partnerships so that we can get money where it is most needed. If someone is out there doing incredible work and is not sure of who an actual partner could be, we would encourage them to reach out to me,  or anyone else on our board, to help them find an appropriate partner.”

Cortes Currents: How long do the recipients have to fulfill their contract?  

Mark Spevakow: “The funds are supposed to be distributed through 2023 and could go up until around summer 2024.  It sounds like there’s about a year  to complete the programs that these funds will fund.”

All photos courtesy Cortes Island Foundation

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