Those are the words of the late Hon. Bill Norrie, Winnipeg mayor from 1979 to 1992, and the longest serving Board Member at The Winnipeg Foundation.
Before his passing in 2012, Norrie was asked about the impact of the Foundation, created 94 years ago when William Forbes Alloway endowed Canada’s first community trust with an initial gift of $100,000.
“I think that goes right back to the vision Mr. Alloway had. I mean his was a great dream, a great vision for the city, and when he created the Foundation, probably didn’t realize just how significant that was. But, it has caused a lot of people within the city, and a lot of organizations and a lot of individuals to have had a better life, as a result of what he did and what other people did by following his example,” Norrie said at the time of the initial interview.
The impact of the granting that is done by The Winnipeg Foundation is the focus of two interviews conducted by citizen reporters Nolan Bicknell and Robert Zirk.
Zirk spoke with The Winnipeg Foundation Community Grants Associate, Joanna Turner, while Bicknell sat down with Rick Lussier, the Foundation’s Director of Community Grants.
Interview with Joanna Turner, Community Grants Associate at The Winnipeg Foundation
Robert Zirk (RZ): What does it mean to an organization to receive a grant from The Winnipeg Foundation?
Joanna Turner (JT): It can really mean a great number of things, as we get lots and lots of grant applications every year from such a diverse range of charitable organizations. For example, if they’re a first-time grantee, it might mean the first step in building a relationship with the Foundation. Maybe they’re hosting an event or maybe they’re starting a new summer program.
If they’ve applied to us before, it could mean the start or continuation of a really great project or program. It could mean that they’re able to start doing board governance or strategic planning to strengthen the capacity of their organization.
We get a wide variety of applications on any given intake, so at the end of the day, I think receiving a grant from the Foundation represents an opportunity to achieve a goal, really to strengthen community whether it’s internally or externally.
RZ: What kinds of needs do you see among the organizations that apply for grants?
JT: Similarly, we get a wide variety of applications on any given intake, so again, this varies between organizations. As a project funder and not a long-term operational funder, we see a lot of innovative project grants, which is really exciting, and we see applications for everything from capacity building to capital costs and other items.
One of the great things about the Foundation is that we provide grants for such a broad range of things that on any one agenda you can see everything from ASL support for a conference to food costs for a nutrition program to larger capital costs and that kind of thing.
RZ: Last year, one of the Foundation’s initiatives was Youth Vital Signs. Tell us a bit about that and how that’s influencing granting at The Winnipeg Foundation.
JT: Youth Vital Signs was a really exciting project to work on. It launched in October 2014. It came out of a survey where we had 1,864 youth fill out the survey between the ages of 14 and 29, and we asked them questions on 15 key areas of life and their perspectives on living in Winnipeg. What came out of that survey was ideas for progress and an understanding that the young people in the city are incredibly eloquent and compassionate of a lot of city issues that require a great amount of depth to understand. It was actually a really good exercise for us as a Foundation as well because we were able to gather a lot of different insights on areas that young people in the city see need for improvement in.
Going forward, with that in mind, we’ve just made an announcement as far as our response goes in relation to Youth Vital Signs because we’ve collected all that information and we certainly want to do something in relation to impact to speak to it.
RZ: In the Foundation’s 2014 Annual Report, there are a lot of stories from different organizations about the successes they’ve had as a result of the grants they received. What is your favourite grant success story, and why?
JT: Mine comes from a smaller grant that we did last year for an organization called Grannies Gone Global. It’s comprised of grandmothers in the North End who are raising their grandchildren, so the network provides support for those in complex child-care situations. Approximately 50% or so of these women live below the poverty line and face a lot of different challenges in raising grandchildren.
The support that we provided for that group was to help them have a grannies’ retreat at Camp Cedarwood, so all of the grandmothers headed out there and got a chance to network with their peers, attend workshops, and just really relax.
The final report that they submitted after the retreat just demonstrated how even a smaller grant can have such great impact for a community dealing with some challenges. Even though it was a smaller grant, it really resonated with me because I think it was very meaningful for the grandmothers that were involved in that program and at the retreat.
Interview with Rick Lussier, Director of Community Grants at The Winnipeg Foundation
Nolan Bicknell (NB): Tell us about the Grants Committee meeting that recently happened and the role of the grants committee at The Winnipeg Foundation.
Rick Lussier (RL): Our grants committee meets three times a year and reviews applications that we receive from the community. At any one time, we’re usually looking at 125 to 150 applications that come in. On this cycle, we had 107 approved applications of nearly 120 that came in. It was really a positive experience for most people that applied – 92% of the people that applied to us received some form of good news, some form of a grant.
NB: Are there any grants that really stand out in your mind?
RL: There are always some grants that stand out. We rarely get poor grants. It’s generally a reflection of agencies trying to do good in the community, but occasionally there’s a few that sort of stand out as unique and exciting.
In this round, we had a very interesting grant go to the Veterans’ Transition Network, which is a group that originated out of British Columbia and is starting to spread across the country. They provide a group-based program that helps veterans who also work with veterans to deal with reduction of PTSD symptoms, depression, anxiety and substance abuse. We felt it was very timely given the situation that faces a lot of our veterans returning home.
Another interesting project was the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute. They received a grant of $75,000 to create a community kitchen. That kitchen not only offers them the opportunity to cook, but it provides nutrition education for newcomer women and it also provides a really effective gathering and meeting space for these women to get together and share both their culinary and life experiences.
NB: When you’re going over the themes of each round of applications, is there a way that when the committee gets together, that they decide on a certain theme to push through? Or does the Foundation have an overarching theme that they look to address each time?
RL: We’re reflecting the needs of the community, so we don’t go into any particular meeting with a particular theme. We fund a full range of charitable activities in the community. We consider ourselves a 360-degree funder. We do the full circle of charitable support, but some themes sometimes emerge.
NB: Did you notice any this time?
RL: There was actually. There was a particular emphasis for support for aboriginal programs, but not only programs that have come in from aboriginal organizations, but also some from non-aboriginal organizations. There’s an artist-run arts organization called Ace Art Inc., and they have an indigenous curator in residence. That program supports the work of indigenous artists and curators and it forms part of their regular exhibition program. So it really profiles the work of indigenous artists and curators as part of their regular programming.
Another interesting one was Aboriginal Languages of Manitoba, who are providing resource books in Cree and Ojibway for families for use in homes. There’s various programs that are offered in some schools and community groups on language but this one is for families for in-home use. We felt that was really quite important and it helps preserve indigenous languages within the families.
Brandon University received some support from us for the purchase of iPads and that’s for their students in their Education of Native Teachers program.
Another interesting one we found was the University of Manitoba in partnership with the Manitoba Aerospace Human Resource Council and the U of M Engineering Access program are celebrating the indigenous ingenuity and technology of aboriginal peoples. One of the examples of that is the technology behind the creation and construction of a birch bark canoe, which is really quite a technological marvel.
For more information about the granting process at The Winnipeg Foundation or highlights from recent grants, visit http://www.wpgfdn.org/.