Two women, in the middle of a crowded room, hugging

Discovery Island Organizations Receiving $215,000 From The Community Prosperity Fund 

The Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with the Government of BC, Community Foundations of Canada and over 50 local community foundations, is distributing $25 million to programs that advance poverty reduction and social inclusion. $105,000 of that will be channeled through the Cortes Island Community Foundation and another $110,000 through the Quadra Island Foundation. The deadline for organizations to apply for funding is June 24th. 

Photo by Michelle Spollen on Unsplash

“This fund is part of BC’s Poverty Reduction Initiative. They’re really hoping that communities are  the best  people to determine what the needs are in that particular community in terms of poverty reduction and social inclusion,” explained Jennifer Banks-Doll, coordinator of this program for the Quadra Island Foundation.

Manda Aufochs Gillespie, Executive Director of the Cortes Foundation added, “We have quite a bit of flexibility in how organizations plan on using those funds. They can be for projects or for core operating support that could go over up to three years. We wish that it was significantly more than $105,000, but we are also very, very grateful to have access to these funds.”

Jody Rodgers, Chair of the Quadra Island Foundation suggested, “I imagine that our initiatives are pretty much identical, It’s just that we have a different geographic catchment area.”  

While thw Quadra Island Foundation serves Read, as well as Quadra Island, the Cortes Foundation is a distinctly Cortes entity. 

It turned out there is a difference in regard to who these foundations can fund. The Quadra Island Foundation was originally set up to fund charities, but the Cortes Foundation can also fund nonprofit and businesses. 

Jody Rodgers: “We have applied to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) for our charitable purposes to be upgraded.  The application was submitted last December and we’ve just been waiting and waiting.”

Cortes Currents: Is there any chance you could increase your distribution beyond charities for this grant? 

Jody Rodgers: “I don’t think so. We haven’t heard anything from the CRA, we’ve already  received the money and  Jen’s already working.”

“Of the 83 organizations on Quadra, only 12 of them are registered charities at this time and  we need to help everyone.” 

“We distribute to what are considered qualified donees according to the Canada Revenue Agency, those are into entities that have a charitable status. Entities that are not  registered charitable organizations, like a nonprofit or, another, organization,  have to partner with a registered charitable organization.”

Jennifer Banks-Doll: “There are a number of registered nonprofits on Quadra who are thinking of applying, and they would need to find a charitable partner. It’s called the collaborating organization and basically they need to be responsible for the funding, but they don’t need to do the work.” 

Jody Rodgers: “We distribute the funding to them and they write the check to the other organization.” 

In the Cortes Community Foundation news release, it states: 

What We Offer:

  • Local Focus: Your application will be reviewed by a Cortes Island community jury, ensuring your project addresses specific needs for Cortes Island.  
  • Flexible Funding: Grants can range from $5,000 to $40,000 to support operational expenses, expand existing projects, or create new initiatives.
  • Multi-year Support: You have up to three years to implement your project, allowing you to pace activities according to your organization’s needs

We will prioritize applications that:

  • Involve community partnerships and collaborations: We believe stronger connections within the community lead to more effective solutions.
  • Fill an urgent gap in the community or seeds a multi-year initiative: Funding will prioritize addressing immediate needs while also encouraging sustainable solutions.
  • Have limited or no access to other funding: We aim to support initiatives that might struggle to secure funding elsewhere.

I asked the Quadra Island Foundation if they have any specific needs or organizations they wish to target

Jennifer: “We have a number of organizations on Quadra who are directly working to reduce poverty, often through initiatives related to food, but we also have a new affordable housing society. We know there’s other ways of reducing poverty as well. For example, we have Quadra Circle. They’ve been around for a while and they do all kinds of different things to reduce social isolation, they provide the ‘better at home’ service, which helps seniors get to medical appointments and shopping and programs and they also ended up starting the Seniors Housing Society, which has built affordable housing for seniors. ICAN, the Island Climate Action Network, are taking food that the stores can’t sell, but that’s still perfectly good to eat and they’re distributing it to people in need.” 

Jody Rodgers: “I think housing is more important than food with respect to intervention because there’s already systemic or structural interventions with respect to food.  I would look forward to the affordable housing society  to come with a really good proposal. We would have to find a partner for them and that might be a little complicated, but we will definitely do that to the best of our abilities.”

Jennifer Banks-Doll: “This fund doesn’t fund purchase of land or,  building of housing directly, but it could fund, for example, a staff to then find the land  and find partners.”  

On Cortes they recently had an anonymous donor purchase a piece of land, which they’re then going to use to develop affordable housing. Well, to find that anonymous donor took hours and hours of coffees and just having conversations about what the needs in the community were and how this donor could help.  This fund could, for example, fund the Affordable Housing Society to hire a part time coordinator to do some of that groundwork or even to find the grants that are actually going to help buy land. All those things that a volunteer board could do, but it may take a lot longer.  If you can hire a coordinator, they can really help move the ball forward.” 

Jody Rodgers: “The other thing that they could do is to develop a building plan, or an infrastructure plan. While they may not necessarily have a piece of land on which to sit, those plans could inspire a donor if they involve some novel technology, like you have a completely energy, independent or,  water and sewage independent structure  that serves as a community model  for all Discovery Islands. Those sorts of things cost a lot of money, but they don’t cost as much as land. You pay an architect, you pay a design engineer, you pay a solar engineer, you pay a desalination engineer.  You’ve all these kinds of things that you can incorporate into your structural plans, which may be a complete pipe dream. However, if you present this  as a tangible entity to a potential land donor and say, this charitable organization can receive your grant of land in exchange for a tax letter.” 

Cortes Currents: Do you have any specific size grants in mind? 

Jody Rodgers: “I don’t think so. It depends on the number of applicants and we have to be a bit  like King Solomon, in that we have to split the baby and decide who deserves what.  That’s the role of Jen and her committee, because they will sit together and say, this thing is worth a certain amount and this other one, maybe not so much.  That’s a super, super hard job to do. And it can engender some heated arguments and hopefully no bad feelings.  it’s difficult to make those decisions.” 

“Wouldn’t it be fabulous if a whole bunch of people get together, get the whole $110,000 and they can do some really amazing.”

Jennifer Banks-Doll: “We need to think a bit more broadly about how we actually reduce poverty. There’s a whole bunch of different things that could be effective  in moving the needle on poverty  and social inclusion. My job is really to help support organizations to brainstorm about what are the different ideas and what could be most useful.”

“The fund can be used for a new project  or an existing project you want to expand, or it can be used for operations to fund  staff or rent or travel expenses. A lot of organizations find it difficult to fund operations.  This fund is an opportunity to perhaps provide that core funding just to keep that organization going.” 

“Or maybe there’s a way to use it like  seed money, to  get more money. Do a pilot, and then once you’ve done a pilot, you might be able to get additional funding to actually fund the program. You were a part of  the meeting that we had in February, which was the Strengthening Community Connections meeting to bring organizations together. When we bring organizations together, we can be really effective at identifying gaps. So what are the gaps in our community related to reducing poverty and increasing social inclusion and how can we work together? This fund can even fund coalitions to work together on those kinds of issues.”

“We can be creative to think about ways to do it and potentially we could work  with organizations on Cortes or Campbell River and do things together. So the fund requires that  the community foundation that’s in the community that will be most affected by the program is the one that you apply to, but it doesn’t mean that your program can’t benefit communities outside of your own. It just needs to benefit communities in BC.” 

Cortes Currents asked for more details on how the Cortes Island Foundation could use its Community Prosperity Funding 

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: we are about to also launch our first ever Vital Signs data  collection process, and I want to talk a little bit about the vital science as it relates the prosperity fund, what the vital science does is to look in depth at the needs, opportunities, assets of our little community and starts to allow us to kind of track where we’re making a difference, where the real strengths are and figure out how to build upon what’s working in our little community.  Without this kind of information, it’s almost impossible to get grants or to get government funding, etc.

We do not have  full access to a lot of that data now, but we know a lot about the needs and opportunities and what’s working already within our community because of the incredible work of the nonprofits. That is happening here and, Roy, you’ve been part of making sure  that work doesn’t go unnoticed. We’ve considered that to be part of our job to at the community foundation. 

I basically feel that any nonprofit working on Cortes that’s working with any essential need related to creating vibrant, healthy, ongoing livelihoods, and caring for our community, the ecology, the human infrastructure, et cetera, of our community would be eligible.

The hard thing is going to be how to choose between organizations that are already doing incredible work, all of which need way more support and funding than this is going to deliver. 

Cortes Currents: You were suggesting that people apply for specific amounts of  between 5,000 and $40,000.  

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: That’s right. We’ve put those  mostly so that there is an opportunity for lots of organizations to apply and get funded,  I’m highly encouraging organizations to apply and get funded because what we recently saw with our gender equity funding, which came through a different combination of partners, but not a dissimilar combination of partners, is that we had a top up that was significantly larger than our original distribution. In that funding, we were only able to  top up  programs that had applied. 

Even though it is always heartbreaking  to say no.  or to underfund projects, we are encouraging organizations to think and look at their operations and how they might be able to begin to leverage the assets of this community for long term prosperity and to get in their projects even if we cannot Fund them now with the hopes that there will be additional funds in the future. 

Even if this funding doesn’t come in through , we find that as soon as we can start imagining  a possibility or a project and an amount that it would take to get it going,  that is the first step to finding additional donors, government support, et cetera.

So we are highly encouraging organizations to put together something,  even if they feel like, ‘ we’re an organization doing really important work, but maybe we’re not the first person that you think of when you think of poverty reduction, et cetera.’ Well,  if you’re working on Cortes in a meaningful way, then you’re responsible for many of the assets that make this community as rich as it is.

Cortes Currents: What do you think about the idea of using the funding to hire staff so that they can find ways to make opportunities happen?

Manda Aufochs Gillespie: What I would say is that it is one of the Community Foundation’s priorities that when possible, organizations do staff leadership.

I’m a big fan of the idea of using these funds for organizations to scale and I think one of the best ways to scale is to invest in staff and to grow existing staff.  If you don’t have staff,  consider getting some staff. I think absolutely this is the kind of funding that could be used to invest in those  core operations that will hopefully then mean that you can start applying for other grants, creating organizations that might generate their own revenue streams, et cetera.

Links of Interest

Top image credit: Hug – Photo by Erika Giraud, Courtesy Vancouver Foundation

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