this year’s participatory Grant-in-Aid process

The invitations were emailed on April 23, 2020 and an announcement was made at www.cortesisland.com for anyone who may have been missed. Cortes Island’s entire non profit sector, “especially those not applying for funds,” were invited to a participatory Grant-in-Aid process. Fourteen organizations were at the first ZOOM meeting; eight subsequently posted final applications. Each organization was instructed to choose a designated rep to vote on how the funding should be allocated. Cortes Island’s Alternate Director, Corry Dow, will present the results to the Electoral Areas Services Committee on Wednesday, June 19th. 

Working Together

“I understand that this approach was taken as a step towards greater connection and synergy between Cortes Island Community Organizations, to foster deeper understanding of the various projects undertaken by the energetic folk who support the community through their volunteer work, coordinated by a handful of paid staff. It makes sense that these people would want to make the most of the limited grants available by avoiding duplication of projects and partnering wherever possible. What better way to achieve this than by engaging in direct discussion?” said Dow.

Manda Aufochs Gillespie, President of Cortes Literacy Now – which is probably best known for its Folk U program, added, “I think that there is a real hunger among the social profits to work together, and to partner in order to make a more sustainable, equitable, liveable Cortes.”

“I like the process this year because it opened up potential to collaborate between organizations. I like that [Regional Director Noba Anderson] is demonstrating more democratic processes to eliminate any question of favouritism. There never was favouritism, but now it can be demonstrated publicly. Non-profits should have the ability to be completely transparent about their funding, so this is a good model,” said Loni Taylor, Vice President of the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA).

The Process

There were seven sessions. 

Four of these were virtual community meetings, open to anyone on Cortes Island and broadcast over Cortes Radio. A number of organizations described their vision and what they wanted a Grant in Aid for.

In addition, there were three closed meetings in which the non profits talked among themselves.

the results of this years grant-in-aid process

The Recommendations

  1. $5,282 – Cortes Island Women’s Resource Centre (applying through the Campbell River & North Island Transition Society) – towards core funding. 
  2. $4,720 – Linnaea Farm Society – for two programs meant to increase Cortes Island’s food security: $2,407 for the Community Food Hub & $2,313 for the Cortes Island Seed Sanctuary. 
  3. $4,045 – Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA) – for a variety of programs: $655 for the Community Investment Co-op Development; $866 for a Food Security Coordinator; $497 for a Grant Writer; $433 for an Online Needs/Offers & Job Board Platform; $719 for the Resilient Enterprise Training Series; and $855 towards clearing their 2.5 acre plot in Mansons Landing so it can be used by the community. 
  4. $3,345 – Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI) – $2,664 for operating expenses, and $681 for the (re)Connecting to Resilience Program.
  5. $2,915 – Cortes Literacy’s Neighbour Micro-Grants Program – which gave out $5,000, primarily in amounts of between $100 and $600, to organizations and individuals in need last year. 
  6. $2,628 – Cortes Community Health Association (CCHA) – for their Family Support Program.
  7. $1,155 – Cortes Island Seafood Association – for 2021 Seafest Equipment.
  8. $910 – Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society – for the Wild Cortes program.

No One Is Applying For What They Need

None of these organizations are applying for the amounts they want or need. 

The biggest discrepancy occurs with FOCI, which unveiled an ambitious plan to raise $362,936 over the next two years for seven key environmental initiatives – but did not indicate how much they hope to receive from the Grant-In-Aid program. 

At least three organizations – the Women’s Centre, Family Support Program, and  Museums’ Wild Cortes program – will need to find additional funding to continue operations.

Other non profits will have to defer specific programs. As Taylor explained, on behalf of her organization:

“For CCEDA, it means we are postponing certain projects, as well as putting the resources we do have into sourcing more funding for those projects. Ultimately it will slow the execution of programming, and cause detriment on our level of impact to the community in immediate terms.”

The Participatory Grant-in-Aid Process

The amounts recommended for this year’s Grant in Aid application were obtained by averaging out the votes by the representatives from 13 non-profit organizations s, five of which did not submit applications:

  • Climate Hope
  • Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA)
  • Cortes Community Health Association
  • Cortes Island Community Foundation
  • Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society (CIMAS)
  • Cortes Island Seafood Association
  • Cortes Island Seniors Society
  • Cortes Island Women’s Resource Centre
  • Cortes Literacy
  • Cortes Radio
  • Friends of Cortes Island (FOCI)
  • Hollyhock
  • Linnaea Farm Society

Hopefully the non profits will eventually release a much more detailed report, detailing some of the challenges as well as successes, of this experiment.

Key Questions For Consideration

  • How can the process be streamlined?
  • Do we want to do it again next year?
  • Can this process be opened up to members of the wider community? ?

Final Thoughts

“I do not know if I could actually say I am representing the museum on this, but as a human being my experience of that process is that it was onerous, there was a lot of energy that we had to put into it, and then on top of that we had to complete an application form … but overall I really do feel it was a wonderful collaboration and I got to know numerous of the other organizations and their representatives on the island in a way that I never had before,” said Jane Newman, Managing Director of the Cortes Island Museum and Archives Society..

Disclosure: In addition to writing this account, I am the President of one of the organizations that participated in the voting process (Cortes Community Radio Society), but is not among the applicants for a Grant in Aid.

Top photo credit courtesy: Linnaea Farm Food Security Guild

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