By Korie Marshall

Two free workshops in Valemount on April 3 gave local volunteers lots of insight on applying for grants for their non-profit groups. If your non-profit missed it, there are still opportunities.

Presenters gave an idea of the spectrum of funders and rules you might encounter. On one side are groups like Northern Development Initiative Trust who, as Dean McKinley, Director of Economic Development says, wants to do everything they can to help you get funding for a solid project. On the other end are funders like BC’s provincial Gaming Grants, who have much more strict and inflexible rules, but can be of great benefit in helping with the day-to-day running of your organization – if you can manage the paperwork.

The morning’s workshop, presented by McKinley, is also available online, and is called “Unlocking your Funding Potential.” It outlines what the developers, McKinley and Brodie Guy, call the seven keys to successful grant writing. In first key, “Be Prepared”, McKinley says the grant writer is “managing from the middle,” and that the best written grants show that the submitter is personally connected with the project. While NDIT does provide funding help for the community grant writer to help with your applications, members of the organization need to be actively involved in the planning of the project.

Other keys in the workshop include “Craft a Compelling Story”, “Cultivate Potential Funders” and “Rock the Application”, and they include insight from the funder’s side. The web version of the workshop and companion documents available on their website.

McKinley says NDIT also offers a special service – a search of a massive database of grant funding opportunities. NDIT has a subscription to the BIG Online database of fundraising opportunities and resources for charities and non-profits, a subscription many communities can’t afford. McKinley says that although they may not be able to help you sift through the results, NDIT’s interns can do a search of the database for your non-profit. NDIT also offers a number of grant opportunities with multiple intakes each year. One of their programs, the Community Halls and Recreation Facilities program, provides up to 50 per cent, up to $30,000 towards a project for recreation facilities like rodeo grounds, playgrounds and community halls.

The afternoon workshop was presented by Rhonda Dickson, whose job it is to help non-profits successfully apply to the provincial gaming grants.

Dickson works for the Northern Interior Communities Association, a group which used to be the bingo association in Prince George. She explained that when gambling was legalized in Canada in 1906, the intent was that revenue from gaming (like church bingos and bazaars) would go back to the community. Gaming policy has changed a lot over the years, but some of the province’s revenue still goes back to community organizations, through the Gaming Policy Enforcement Branch. The NICA is mandated to help non-profits navigate the gaming grants application process and to be an advocate for them to the Branch. Membership in the NICA is available to any non-profit or charity in BC, and is free, but you don’t need to be a member to get help.

Dickson explained that the first application to the gaming grants is the hardest. An organization needs to open a special gaming account with their bank if they want to apply for funding (any organization with a gaming license will already have this account). The first application must be mailed in, and must be complete and on time – no late or incomplete applications are accepted, and the organization would have to until the next intake, a year later. Dickson also explains that if your application is complete and on time, but has been declined, you have the right to appeal the decision, a process she can help you with. However if you work with her before submitting your application, she can help you improve your chances of being approved the first time.

Gaming grants are not intended for one-time or large capital projects, but for supporting ongoing, sustainable programs. Dickson explains that the gaming grants are not intended to be your organization’s primary funder, but they will help you with ongoing expenses to run your programs – so you can potentially put your other funding into new or bigger projects.

One thing Dickson suggests is very important for all organizations, but especially to those who apply for gaming grants – keep track of your in-kind contributions, like your volunteer hours throughout the year, as well as any donations. She says your volunteer’s time doing anything from attending workshops to cleaning your facilities and manning a hotdog booth is worth $10 per hour per person. This is important because when it comes to applying for gaming grants, which will only fund up to 75 per cent of your program, volunteer time counts as money.

You can find out more about NICA on their website or you can email Rhonda Dickson at [email protected]. You can find more information about the gaming grants on the province’s website.

The free workshops were sponsored by Northern Development Initiative Trust, the Valemount Learning Centre, the Village of Valemount, and the Northern Interior Communities Association.