Community Foundation of the South Okanagan has new grant program

CFSO is hoping to enhance how people connect to their local community with a new grant program.

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan is hoping to enhance how people connect to their local community with a new grant program.

Giving out grants is nothing new for the CFSO, but in this case they are going to be small, aimed at doing little things that will have a big effect.

It’s part of the Neighbourhood Small Grants program, a partnership between the CFSO and the City of Penticton, which will each be contributing $5,000, and the Vancouver Foundation, which will be matching the funds with a $10,000 contribution.

A total of $20,000 might not seem like a lot of cash, but at $500 per grant, executive director Aaron McRann expects it to go a long ways to creating positive change.

“That money is going to be used for grants to individual neighbourhoods to do community building work that increases a sense of belonging among neighbours and facilitates the process of people getting to know each other and building a connection with their neighbours,” said McRann.

Neighbourhood Small Grants has been in operation in Vancouver for several years under the auspices of the Vancouver Foundation, and McRann said it has been so successful there that they are trying to roll the idea out to other communities.

“Almost invariably, they have an increase in the sense of connectedness amongst neighbours after they do these projects,” said McRann. “We will be taking it on as the first small pilot. It is a little bit different for us, because in Vancouver, one neighbourhood has the population of Penticton.”

In Vancouver, the mini-grants have been used for everything from neighbourhood Olympics, where one block has a sports competition against another block, to cleaning up a park, planting trees or hosting a block party.

“We really want to encourage residents to be creative about what the actual need is in their area,” said McRann. “Some people want to do graffiti cleanup, or repair fences on empty lots, those things that affect the feel of their particular street.”

The concept fits well with a number of the CFSO goals, including their annual Vital Signs report, which showed that increasing a sense of belonging is a key issue in South Okanagan communities.

“This is a really good strategy for doing that. It also relates pretty closely with one of our underlying themes over the last year or so, which has been three things you can do, trying to encourage local residents to do three small things to make their community better,” said McRann. “It all ties together.”

McRann said the CFSO hasn’t laid out a firm timeline yet, having only gained the support of the city last week, but expects the program to roll out in early 2015.