Funding overhaul for non-profits will have 'winners and losers'

Starting next month, hundreds of non-profit organizations across Ottawa will be eligible to apply for millions of dollars in stable funding, a right that has long been limited to a select number of groups.

For nearly 20 years, more than 100 organizations representing everything from food banks to community drop-in centres to addiction programs have divvied up a $24-million funding pie, but other groups have long argued they deserve a crack at some of those stable dollars. 

The city says the new, open process lets it focus on three priorities — poverty reduction, community development and social infrastructure — while also giving underrepresented sectors including youth, LGBT and Indigenous groups a chance to apply for consistent funding. 

But it also means more organizations are fighting for a piece of the same pie, now worth about $25 million.

Funding free-for-all

The Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre has been receiving around $1 million a year under the old funding model.

But Luc Ouellette, the centre's executive director, said the organization understands that money is no longer guaranteed, and will be conscious of that while drafting its finding proposal.

"We have people who are living in poverty in Orléans and everywhere in the city, so we will make sure our proposal well [represents] this need in our community," he said.

Ouellette's organization will be able to apply for funding next month, and will find out by July how much it can bank on for 2021.

Hugo Bélanger/Radio-Canada

3 funding models

An allocation committee will choose organizations based on how their proposals fit the city's priorities, and decide what kind of funding they'll receive. 

A five-year, long-term sustainability fund can be used for everything from rent and staffing to crisis intervention and other programming needs. 

A three-year community fund will only be open to groups that don't receive sustainability funding, and would allow those organizations to respond to "unmet, complex and/or emerging community needs and pressures." 

There's also a brand new emerging and emergency needs fund that will be directed to priority neighbourhood or community initiatives.

Jean Delisle/CBC

Because more organizations will be fighting for the same bucket of money, the city's also including $500,000 in transition funding for those organizations that inevitably end up losing funding they've received in previous years.

There are specific needs that we're looking to fund and support and as part of that, obviously, there will be winners and losers. - Coun. Mathieu Fleury

"We have priority neighbourhoods. There are specific needs that we're looking to fund and support and as part of that, obviously, there will be winners and losers," said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury.

"Every group's excited because every group thinks they're going to get more money. The reality is that it will have impacts ... positive for [some] and negative for others."

Fleury admitted it's a small amount of money to dole out to so many groups addressing so many priorities.

"We know there's a bigger need than $25 million, absolutely, but I think it's important for council and the city to do its renewal and its review."

Smaller organizations and those with little experience writing funding proposals will have a chance to take advantage of a grant proposal writing workshop this spring.