by KORIE MARSHALL
A new fund from the provincial government, intended to support rural communities, may be too onerous for many non-profits to apply for. That is because it requires audited financials, at least for the first round of intakes.
The Rural Dividend is a new grant program from the provincial government, intended to help rural communities diversify and strengthen their economies. The program will provide $25 million a year over three years to rural communities with populations under 25,000, and is open to local governments, First Nations and non-profit organizations. According to the program guide, it is intended to reinvigorate and diversify local economies, making them more attractive places to live and work.
Program staff said in early May they’d already heard complaints that the requirement for audited financials is too onerous for many non-profits.
“Audited statements will generally run about four to five thousand dollars, and that’s for a non-profit,” says local resident Gord Peters. He is the manager for one local non-profit, and has been involved in many others non-profits and business ventures. He says the next step down would be a Review Engagement Report for about $3-4 thousand.
“A good recommendation would be to eliminate the need for audited statements, or even reviewed statements for non-profits falling under a certain threshold of revenue,” says Peters. “Otherwise all your money will go to accountants.”
The manager of another local non-profit said she recently received a quote closer to $10,000 for audited statements for one year. Audited statements are not currently required for non-profits under the provincial Society Act.
Peters says it’s a sign of the times we live in, that everyone wants to cover themselves. “People in government feel that $5,000 is pocket change.”
Audited financial statements are currently required for both the Rural Dividend’s main funding streams (either for a single applicant or for a partnership) and for the Project Development funding stream. The Project Development stream can grant up to $10,000 towards things like feasibility studies or business cases, to help an organization build a stronger application for a later intake.
The Rural Dividend is administered by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Greig Bethel, spokesperson for the ministry, confirmed the goal of the program is to support rural communities, but says the Province needs a reasonable assurance of the recipient’s financial stability when providing funding. He says one of the safeguards the Province has employed is to ask for audited statements, so that it can understand the financial position of the applicant, but they do recognize that may be a challenge for some non-profits.
“Government will review the impact of this and other criteria following the first intake to look for ways to improve the program moving forward,” said Bethel. He says they will consider suggestions from potential recipients and other stakeholders on how to improve the program in the future. The Province urges potential applicants to check with the program or review the program guide for any potential changes for future intakes.
The current rules also disqualify applications from new societies. Rick Thompson, member of the Rural Advisory Council which helped develop the program, says discussions mainly focused around non-profits that were well established, but he doesn’t think that should preclude a newly developed non-profit from applying. He agreed concerns about the audited financial requirements were valid.
Thompson will be presenting information on how to submit a strong application to the program at an upcoming workshop in Valemount on may 26th. Contact the Valemount Learning Centre for details.
Downloadable application forms, program guidelines, as well as detailed instructions on how to apply are available on the new Rural Dividend website at www.gov.bc.ca/ruraldividend. Deadline for the first intake is May 31, 2016.