It’s a bit of an unusual situation for the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, but they have more money in a grant program than people applying.
The Neighbourhood Small Grants has been in operation in Vancouver for several years under the auspices of the Vancouver Foundation, and this year it is expanding to the South Okanagan, with $20,000 to hand out. A total of $20,000 might not seem like a lot of cash, but at with each grant limited to $500, the CFSO can give out 40 grants.
“We’ve had a number of applications, we are just looking for more” said Aaron McRann, CFSO executive director. “We certainly don’t have 40 applications, we are a long ways from that.”
Rather than charities and service organizations, these grants are aimed at building community at the neighbourhood and individual level.
“We are going to be granting to individuals who care about their neighbourhood and want to do something to build connections between neighbours,” said McRann. “The point of it is to build a stronger sense of belonging and connection in our communities, so everyone feels included and welcomed and people get to know each other.”
The Neighbourhood Small Grants program was created by the Vancouver Foundation in 1999, based on a simple proposition, that when people feel a sense of connection and belonging to their neighbourhood, they are more likely to be engaged in activities that make it a better place to live.
There are a lot of ways that could come about, according to McRann.
The grants could be used for something as simple as a block party, a neighbourhood cleanup campaign or planting trees. In Vancouver, there the grant program has been in operation since 1999, it’s been used to fund a neighbourhood Olympics, where one block has a sports competition against another block.
“Something that brings the neighbours together,” said McRann. “The whole point is to give neighbourhoods a chance to celebrate their connections and to build stronger connections.”
McRann said research through Vital Signs and elsewhere across the country has shown the CFSO that building a strong sense of belonging is an important way of building a better community.
The Neighbourhood Small Grants program is a partnership between the CFSO and the City of Penticton, which are each contributing $5,000, and the Vancouver Foundation, which has matched those funds with a $10,000 contribution.