By Doug Hallett
An official says city hall is happy about the initial results of its new and “quite unique” way of allotting grants to local community groups.
“I think it took longer than we envisioned, but the group certainly rose to the challenge,” said Barbara Powell, the city’s general manager of community engagement and social services.
The new grant process resulted in a significant shift in grant recipients for 2014, she said in an interview.A new eight-member committee of citizens reviewed 77 applications for 2014 grants, including 35 from organizations that hadn’t applied for grant funding for 2013.
The list of chosen recipients of 2014 grants includes 14 first-time recipients, Powell said. Thirteen of these were first-time applicants, while one had applied unsuccessfully in the past.
Meanwhile, nine organizations that had received a grant for 2013 didn’t receive one for 2014, she said.
Previously, the city “had various types of review groups” looking at city grant applications, Powell said, but city council “always had the final authority” over grant decisions – which it no longer has.
“I think they (the citizen committee) made really good decisions, and it’s been a very effective process,” said Powell. She said Guelph is “quite unique” among municipalities in its new approach to grants.
The city’s new grant process involves not only a new decision-making body, but also new criteria for handing out grants. Up to now, the city has awarded three “streams” of grants in the categories of health and social services, arts and culture, and special events.
Starting for 2014, city grants are being handed out based on the goals of Guelph’s Community Wellbeing Initiative. These include increasing democratic participation, increasing the city’s living standards, promoting healthy living, improving community vitality, and supporting endeavours in arts and culture, leisure, education and environment. “It is broader in terms of the kinds of activities that are available for funding,” Powell said.
The city announced this month that a total of $279,400 is being granted this year to 43 local not-for-profit organizations, with $15,000 being the maximum grant. The grant pot was $25,000 higher than it was for 2013, as a result of a decision made by council for the city’s 2014 budget.
Wellington Water Watchers, which among other things is a high-profile critic of Nestlé’s water-bottling operation in Aberfoyle, was one of the new grant recipients in 2014. Its $7,000 grant is to “oversee educational activities and volunteers,” Powell said.
Groups are ineligible for city grants “if they are primarily political in nature,” but Wellington Water Watchers wasn’t seen as being such a group, she said.
Two groups, the Guelph Arts Council and the Guelph Jazz Festival, received the maximum grant of $15,000 each.
Lakeside Church and the Lakeside Hope House, which is operated by Lakeside Church in the former Norfolk Street United Church in the downtown, were both on the list of recipients, each receiving $7,500 grants. Powell said the two grants, which total $15,000, are for different activities.
“According to the applications, they are separately incorporated organizations with distinct incorporation numbers and charitable numbers. Had they been the same corporation, then only one of the applications would have been reviewed,” she said.
Lakeside Church applied for a grant to work in collaboration with Five Star Relationships to provide subsidized one-to-one counselling support and walk-in services to low-income city residents. Lakeside Hope House applied for a grant to expand its program to provide access and education related to “fresh, nutritious food for residents experiencing food insecurity,” she said.
Powell said the eight people picked for the grant committee were recruited in the same way that city hall recruits to fill posts on a wide variety of city boards and committees. The eight members who were chosen were seen as “broadly representative” of the spectrum of groups eligible for city grants, she said.
The grant committee is chaired by Alison Govier, and J. C. Blokhuis is the vice-chair. The other members of the panel are Bruce Mackenzie, E. Lin Grist, Jennifer Gazzola, Lorna Schwartzentruber, Morris Twist and Sally Wismer.
By Doug Hallett