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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Opportunity Watch: Community Foundations, Unite!

This week’s Opportunity Watch is a smorgasborg of upcoming deadlines from a few of the more than 180 Community Foundations in Canada.  Visit the Community Foundations of Canada website to find your local community foundation.

  • The Greater Saint-John Community Foundation supports registered charities that serve communities within 50km of Saint John, NB.  They have a wide range of priorities, including bridging the gap between rich and poor, housing/transportation and belonging/leadership.   Applications for the Community Support Grants or Vital Impacts Grants are due by April 15th.
  • The Sarnia Community Foundation provides grants that support or improve quality of life in Sarnia/Lambton, address critical community needs or strengthen the community’s capacity to care for itself.  The deadline every year is April 30th.
  • The Winnipeg Foundation was Canada’s first community foundation and offers many different grant programs.  Its main program is the Community Grants program, supporting community projects in the area of community service, education, health, arts and culture, heritage, recreation and the environment.  Applications are reviewed three times a year.  The next deadline is April 30th.
  • The Fondation communautaire du Grand Québec offers funding to recognized charities located in the Quebec City, Chaudière-Appalaches or Bas-Saint-Laurent regions.   The application form is available online as of April 1st and must be submitted no later than April 30th.

Good luck!

Opportunity Watch: Ontario, this one’s for you!

Hey Ontario!  Our wonderful research team has found a selection of opportunities with upcoming deadlines aimed at supporting communities and families throughout the province.

The Chatham Kent Community Foundation provides funding to recognized charities in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent within the education, health, arts and culture, recreation and social services sectors. Preference is given to projects which encourage more efficient use of community resources, developed in consultation/partnership with other agencies or which promote volunteer and citizen involvement in the community.  The annual application deadlines are April 1 and October 1.  

The Geoffrey H. Wood Foundation funds community projects and non-hospital healthcare projects, with a focus on projects/programs that support families in the Greater Toronto area.  Deadlines  are April 1st and October 1st annually.

The Harry E Foster Charitable Foundation, supports programs and projects for people with intellectual disabilities, Alzheimer’s and community-based organizations that work with the disadvantaged. Grants are generally made in Ontario.  Application deadlines are April 15th and October 15th. 

Funding applications for the United Way of Bruce Grey are now available.  Grants are available for special projects and single-year funding within the three main priorities of poverty, children and communities.  This year’s application deadline is April 15th at noon.

Happy grantwriting!


Opportunity watch: Grants for youth from across the country

This week, our research team identified some grants that support Canadian youth in different parts of the country:

In beautiful B.C., the Columbia Basin Trust’s Youth Grants Program offers funding up to $15,000 towards projects that directly benefit young people living in that area. Projects that develop youth leadership, support youth engagement or enhance employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in the area are encouraged. Schools, non-profits, First Nations organizations and youth with a sponsoring organization can apply before April 12th.

The Yukon Department of Justice’s Youth Investment Program funds short-term project for at-risk youth living in our larger than life territory. These programs should promote self-esteem, encourage development of positive lifestyle choices, or create social or recreational opportunities. Organizations requesting under $500 may apply throughout the year; organizations requesting between $501 and $5000 have until April 1st to submit their application.

The Government of Nova Scotia’s Cultural Opportunities for Youth program invests in projects that encourage youth participation in artistic and cultural activities. It is intended to assist special or pilot projects and is not intended to provide repeated support to annual events or activities. Projects that foster artistic skills development in youth or promote and display artistic and cultural activities for youth are eligible. Non-profits registered in Canada’s ocean playground province and involved in cultural or artistic activities for children and youth under the age of 25 have until June 15th to apply.

And finally, charities from across Canada that need to make repairs, refurbishments and/or modifications to a housing dwelling that benefits youth in need should check out The Home Depot Canada Foundation’s Affordable Housing Grants, which provides up to $25,000 in funding. Deadline is April 15th.   Eligible projects include (but not limited to) small kitchen/bathroom renovations, window replacements, lighting upgrades and new insulation.

Good luck and happy grant writing!


Where’s the money? Forbes’ list of the richest people in the world points the way – or does it?


Every year, Forbes releases the list of the richest people in the world. And every time the list is published, prospect researchers, fundraisers and volunteers pore over it, hoping to find a hidden gem, a connection not previously known, a source of new funds or even a shortcut to a major gift.  Fundraisers know that it’s never that easy.

Early in my fundraising career, a volunteer suggested that we approach telecom billionaire Carlos Slim for a donation. We didn’t have a connection to him, our small non-profit didn’t do anything remotely tech or telecom-related and Mr. Slim had no history of giving in Canada or in our industry.  But the volunteer was incredibly passionate about our organization and firmly believed that the richest person in the world should support us “just because we do good work” and all it would take is one phone call from the fundraiser. Proper research made it clear that requesting a donation from Mr. Slim would be a long shot. An extremely long shot. And maybe not the best use of time for the fundraiser and volunteer.

I know I’m not alone in this experience as well-meaning volunteers look for ways of “supporting” the fundraiser and competition for grants becomes fierce. Of course we want our organizations to raise more money but chasing after the world’s billionaires – unless your research shows it’s warranted – is not the way to do it.

The Forbes list makes for great reading for fundraisers and can provide some interesting background info on prospects – but it is in no way a substitute for real, honest prospect research. Unless you have a board member who golfs with Carlos Slim, the chance of your organization receiving funding from him – just because you have a great cause — are … well… slim.

What do you think? Do you use the Forbes list as a prospecting tool? Consult the full list at



Opportunity Watch: Let’s Dance!

Since David Bowie is releasing a new album in a few days we thought we’d tell you about some dance grants this week (dancers born in the 80s will get the reference but dancers of all ages can apply).

The Dance Initiatives program of the Ontario Council for the Arts encourages opportunities in which dance can be created, presented and enjoyed.  Urban, contemporary, classical and traditional dance expressions of all world cultures are supported. The program also supports projects that are designed to benefit the larger professional dance community, so choreographers and festivals can also apply. Deadlines  are April 2 and October 1, 2013. 

The Canada Council for the Arts also offers several grants for the dance community. They include:

  • The Dance Presentation Program: Support to Festivals program offers financial assistance to annual or biennial festivals that celebrate and showcase professional dance in a concentrated period of time. Priority is given to festivals that have a strong artistic direction and cultivate the dance audience. Deadlines are May 1 and October 1 every year but festivals may apply only once per calendar year.
  • The Dance Touring Grants – International supports Canadian dancers, non-profit dance companies or collectives touring outside of Canada and covers things like freight, per diem, visas, acoomodations and health insurance. Deadlines are May 1 or October 1.
  • The Dance Touring Grants – National provides support for dancers or companies touring within Canada. The grant covers things like accomdation and travel and is open to professional Canadian dance artists, groups, collectives and non-profit companies. All dance forms of all world cultures are eligible for support. As with the international grants, the deadlines are May 1 and October 1.

Happy dancing!



Interview with Patrick Johnston: Tips from the Foundation Side of the Proposal

You’ve identified a strong prospect and your research is complete.  You work hard on a proposal, submit it on time and then get turned down.  It’s a scenario that fundraisers in Canada are all too familiar with.  So we decided to find out what grant-making foundations are looking for when they hear from charities.  What makes a good “ask”?  And who do they want to hear from anyway (here’s a hint: it might not be your fundraiser).

To answer these questions, I spoke to Patrick Johnston of Borealis Advisors, who has experience on both sides of the desk.  During his career in the charitable sector, Mr. Johnston has served as the ED of a charity, President/CEO of a grantmaking foundation and  is also the former President/CEO of Canadian Centre for Philanthropy (Imagine Canada).

My first question is about the book that you just published, Good Grantmaking: A Guide for Canadian Foundations. What motivated you to write it?

I was commissioned to write it by Philanthropic Foundations Canada, which is the umbrella network of mostly private but some public foundations.  They had wanted for several years to publish a very concrete guide that would enable their members and other grantmakers to do a more effective job of grantmaking.  As a former foundation CEO and President, I certainly saw the value in the project.

You have extensive experience in the charitable sector.  Can you tell me about the challenges that foundations face that charities might not be aware of?

There are a number of challenges that foundations face.  In some cases, a family foundation was created for a specific purpose through a donation made 40, 50, or 60 years ago.   We’re now in the second or third generation family members who are trying to carry on the legacy of their parents or grandparents.  That’s a fairly common challenge that people who are on the asking side might not know about or understand.   And, this may account for a real lack of clarity about what that foundation’s grantmaking mission is because in fact, there might not be consensus on the part of the trustees.

It’s also an issue with hospitals and universities that may have been given a legacy gift decades ago for a particular field of study or discipline that doesn’t exist any more.   The question becomes how do you honour the original intent when that intent may simply not be relevant any more?

Remember, every foundation is a registered charity with the CRA and it has to be very specific in terms of what it’s mission is. Foundations don’t have the luxury of starting to do something completely different relative to what the CRA gave it it’s charity licence for.

During the course of your career,  you have applied for grants and been the one receiving requests.  What advice do you have for charities that are applying for grants? How can they improve their process?

My first piece of advice is one that I actually gave fairly often when I was running the Gordon Foundation. Once a charity does its research and they have really come to know and understand one foundation, they has come to know and understand one foundation.   In other words, every foundation is going to have its own unique and maybe quirky areas of interest, focus and operation. One mistake that many charities make is to assume that all foundations are alike. That is how you get into trouble. No one foundation is like exactly another foundation.

My strongest piece of advice to charities: Really take the time to do that initial research, don’t just fire off a boiler-plate grant proposal and change the name of the foundation. If you’re on the other end [of the proposal], you spot those ones a mile away.  You know that a charity didn’t do their basic research because if they had, they’d know that that is something we simply don’t fund.  Having said that however, I have to say that there are lots of foundations that don’t do a very good job of communicating to potential applicants their grantmaking mission, focus and areas of interest.

I know that there are many good foundations but I think there are a whole lot of very mediocre foundations. The reason I wrote that article that you saw last week was to put a bit of pressure on foundations. That’s what the guide is all about – how can foundations improve their practices to get good grant applications and to help charities understand where to apply.

Just to be up front, I work for Ajah, a grant research software start up, so we’re all about doing good research. What is the best approach to grant research from your perspective? 
Much of this is not rocket science, and I’m won’t say anything that good fundraisers don’t already understand.  I would look to see if the foundation has a website…I have to say I’m still shocked that many don’t. But even if the foundation doesn’t have a web presence, they have to submit T3010 forms to the CRA, as every registered charity has to do annually. It’s a source of some information but it may not be that detailed. But it will give you some sense of the focus or mission of their grantmaking. Using the CRA categories will help you determine if there is a potential fit between whatever your charity’s mission is and that foundation’s mission.

You should also look at the amount of funding they have provided in grants the previous year. Or whether the foundation has infact done any grantmaking. Some foundations only give to their own programs. So even for charitable foundations that don’t have a website, there is that basic foundation from CRA.

But that doesn’t preclude getting in touch with that foundation, if there is an email address or phone number, but I have to admit that it’s not that common to have that contact information on the forms. Still, there is nothing wrong with at least sending that initial email or making that phone call. And just saying listen, this is who I am and this is the charity I’m working for, this is our area of interest and I don’t want to waste your time or our time. And you may or may not get a response, but that’s part of beginning the process of understanding their priorities.

Recently a Compass Point Study stated that “one in four executive directors said their development directors have no experience or are novice at “current and prospective donor research.” What does this mean for foundations and how can charities fix this?

I’ve been in the charitable sector for many many years and this isn’t an uncommon or new challenge.

But let me also tell you that frankly, and I’m tellling you a deep dark secret of the foundation, there are a lot of foundations though who don’t particularly want to hear from the fundraiser. They want to hear from either the program director or they may want to hear from the executive director who is responsible for the whole operation. As a foundation president, as I consider a grant for a project a fundraiser might not know about the content of the project. I want to hear from the person who is going to run the program who is knowledgeable about the cause or the service or the support.And I also want a sense of the ED and how well managed the organization is.

So I think that some organizations make the mistake of thinking that it’s only the fundraiser who should be approaching foundations. I would much prefer to hear from the Executive Director or the Program Manager of an organization perhaps in conjunction with a fundraiser but to hear from someone who has an idea of the substance of the programs.

You’re deeply involved in many levels of the nonprofit sector and know a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. Which cause still has that emotional pull for you?

You’re not going to trap me on this one, I serve as a volunteer on a number of boards and if I picked one I’d get in trouble with all the others.

I guess, one of the things I’m doing as part of my volunteer work is I’m on a committee that the Governor General has established to advise him on things that he, as Governor General, can do to increase the general level of giving by all Canadians. And by giving he means, the giving of time, talent and treasure. Because it’s not just giving money, that is important, but it’s also the contribution of individual people’s time and their expertise that for many organizations is also really important.

So I guess if I had one cause, it’s that overall cause of the promotion of philanthropy and volunteerism generally speaking that has the potential to benefit every cause.

Well said, Mr. Johnston. Thank you so much for your time and expertise. 

Opportunity Watch: Literary Grants

This week has turned up some fantastic opportunities for organizations with a love of literature.

For non-profits publishing arts periodicals in B.C., the British Columbia Arts Council is offering grants to help fund operations costs. The goal is to support the development of stable, well led periodicals that publish regularly – this means a minimum paid circulation of 500 copies per issue. Applications are accepted until March 15th.

Toronto Arts Council is offering a grant for non-profit literary organizations in Toronto to encourage publication and the appreciation of literature and literary artists. This grant covers organizations operations and artistic expenses. The deadline for consideration is March 1st.

For book-lovers and wordsmiths outside of BC and Toronto, Canada Council for the Arts has two more grants for organizations anywhere in Canada.

The Literary Reading and Author Residencies Program is for organizations that would like to host at least four full public readings. The goal is to increase the exposure of Canadian writing and authors to the general public through readings. The readings must take place between 1 July and 30 June.  Apply by March 1st.

Canada Council for the Arts also offers Grants to Literary and Art Magazines in order to increase the excellence and awareness of arts and literary expression in Canada. Publishers and magazines can apply for funding and will be evaluated based on excellence in publication and need. Apply by March 1st.

Good luck and happy grantwriting!