Trillium Foundation grants preview

trilliumThe Ontario Trillium Foundation is rejigging its programs. Below is a summary of how we see things shaping up and our (highly subjective) thoughts  about what they are looking for.

The focus for all public funders today is economic development, i.e. job creation and stimulus, especially directed towards youth, seniors and constituencies facing acute political, social, physical or economic challenges.

All funders also want to see impacts beyond the money spent by the grant, whether in the form of projects becoming self-sustaining or by producing measurable economic benefits that advance self-reliance in the targeted constituency.

If you don’t know anything about impact measurement, it’s time to learn what GIIRS, GRI, IRIS and SROI stand for.

To approach Trillium for funding, here are the basic steps:

  1. find the right funding category – there are three now, SEED, GROW and CAPITAL;
  2. make sure your project is targeting at least one of Trillium’s desired “priority outcomes;”
  3. find the program area that fits what you do – there are six: Active People, Connected People, Green People, Inspired People, Promising Young People and Prosperous People – all interesting terminology  for what, back in the day, they would have simply called Sports, Seniors, Environment, Arts, Youth, and Employment
  4. ensure your project is doing the kind of work Trillium will support (they are being very specific) and that it will produce measurable impact; you will want to be counting, counting, counting not just the number of people engaged and dollars spent/earned,  but the number of job placements, clubs and leadership positions created, square feet of building, facilities, etc.

Funding levels can be expected to be somewhat lower than before considering both Kathleen Wynne’s continued cuts to the Trillium budget (amounting to $20m over the past 4 years; 2012-13 budget was approximately $125m), and the fact that demand is always rising.

There are three grant streams: Seed, Grow and Capital.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.02.43 PMSEED grants are for early-stage development projects:

Activities funded include:

  • Conducting new research or feasibility studies
  • Testing new approaches
  • Hosting discussions about emerging issues or new opportunities
  • Developing a new idea
  • Launching a new event
  • Convening people together

AMOUNT: From $5,000 to $75,000
TERM: Up to 1 year

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.27.17 PMGROW grants are for more substantial projects:

Activities funded include:

  • Replicating, adapting or scaling a proven model
  • Piloting or demonstrating a tested model

AMOUNT: From $50,000 to $250,000 per year
TERM: 2 to 3 years

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.02.26 PMCAPITAL grants are for buildings: improving access, or energy efficiency, renovating, repairing or building new.

Activities funded include:

  • Buying and installing equipment
  • Doing renovations, installations and repairs
  • Building structures or spaces
  • Making better use of technological resources

AMOUNT: From $5,000 to $150,000
TERM: Up to 1 year

TYPES OF PROJECTS

Trillium funding is targeted. They know the types of projects they want to support and the impacts those projects should produce.

Let’s look at just three of the six funding streams.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.31.12 PMThe Trillium category ACTIVE PEOPLE is for sport/play projects. In terms of impact, they are looking for:
– high quality and inclusive programs
– engaging more people
More specifically, they are seeking projects that will:
– produce qualified or certified trainers and coaches
– be deeply inclusive: the key words here are “fairness” and “age and ability appropriate”
– create infrastructure for unstructured and structured play/sports: an interesting word here is “unstructured” – they are looking for things that increase physical activity but not necessarily conventional sports.

If you have a project that is going to:

  1. produce new coaches/trainers
  2. in a new kind of structured or unstructured sports/play activity
  3. that is reaching into a community with sports/play deficits

then this is the category for you.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.31.34 PMThe Trillium category INSPIRED PEOPLE is for arts projects. In terms of impact, they are looking for:
– new and improved facilities
– transferring knowledge from older to younger generations
– arts-based learning and compelling cultural experiences, which both translate into not simply increased visitors or audience but a level of active participation.

So, for example, if you have a project that is going to:

  1. add to or rejuvinate or build a new facility
  2. with programs that are committed to using art as a tool for learning not just about art, and
  3. that uses art and artifacts in an active, not passive way

then this is the category for you.

Check out the metrics Trillium envisions you producing in the Inspired People stream.

The last category we’ll look at here is one that is close to our hearts.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.31.23 PMThe Trillium category CONNECTED PEOPLE is for programs to overcome social isolation and alienation. In terms of impact, Trillium is looking for:
– giving people a say in developing meaningful programs;
– cultivating leadership and taking leadership roles in the community
– bringing diverse communities together to share services, work on common goals;
– creating places and programs where people gather.

So, for example, if you have a project that is going to:

  1. bring together people who are isolated
  2. to create their own programs and take on leadership roles
  3. that also crosses the race, class, ethnicity, economic and other  boundaries that keep people apart

then this is the category for you.

Read Trillium’s backgrounders on the Connected People program and expected impacts to get the full picture. Below is an example of the metrics (measurements) they are looking for in this stream.
Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 5.38.21 PM

Finally, NEW to the Trillium process is the preliminary self-assessment tool. That can be intimidating but it is only a tool. If you have a project in mind, it is always a good idea to call Trillium first and talk to one of their friendly and helpful officers. If you would like help planning a project  and preparing an application, please give us a call 647 929 0466 or email info@socialenterpriseadvocates.ca.

Measurables and milestones and economic impact analysis

Libraries contribute to the quality of life in neighbourhoods and as an educational resource but also in real economic terms. Look at the numbers associated with library use. Borrowing and reading a book is an economic activity.
Libraries contribute to the quality of life in neighbourhoods and as an educational resource but also in real economic terms. Look at the numbers associated with library use. Borrowing and reading a book is an economic activity.

Impact is a word you hear often these days. For social enterprises, non-profits and charities it tends to be teamed up with “social,” as in “social impact,” referring to the good you are doing. For business it tends to be partnered with “economic,” as in how much money you make, how many people you employ, plus also how your business stimulates other businesses, contributes to consumer spending power and the overall economy (GDP). Most of us would like to think they are the same thing: that qualitative effects can be evaluated in terms of quantitative results or even dollars, but that isn’t always the case, and I don’t think it should be, if only for the sake of clarity.

We recently completed a business plan for a non-profit community organization that needed to show its funders that it has capacity for real economic growth that will help it be financially sustainable for the long-term. Our research found that, while it will never be free from needing grants, it has a strong track record of private support from donors and sponsors, which when coupled with consistent results in winning grants makes it possible to predict with confidence that it has capacity to do more, to grow these sources of revenue and diversify them. We also found considerable potential to increase self-generated revenue from existing programs and by adding new facilities and programs. Here, however, even though we were talking about very concrete, business-like things, it was difficult to project results with confidence. Two things were lacking: data about how the organization is already working from a program/services earnings perspective, and in-depth understanding of the marketplace, who and how it is serving.

These are concrete and measurable things but the reality is that most non-profits haven’t the time to stop and gather data about their programs or the inclination to study the community they serve as if it were a market, evaluating what is working to determine how to improve or what more/different might be needed. Intuition tends to guide them and quite reliably so, thanks to the caring expertise of the people who work there. But in today’s world where measurables and milestones are the order of the day, more is needed.

I think there’s some fear that using business tools (for looking at social enterprises from a market and revenue perspective) is like joining the “forces of darkness,” that principles, mission and ethics will be compromised the moment you associate dollars with them.

Information graphics are great tools for showing where the money is.
Information graphics are great tools for showing where the money is.

Before you judge, it is worth looking at the tools, some of which have been developed by the communities that use them to help put dollar values on the indirect “intangibles” that non-profits deliver. One example, is this calculator created by Americans for the Arts (AFTA).

Economic impact calculators use multipliers based on detailed study of various industries. The AFTA calculator produces suspiciously big numbers for indirect and “induced” (even less direct, like ambient) impacts of arts organizations like museums, until you consider that cultural industries actually produce bigger impacts than traditional industries like manufacturing. The multipliers used for the auto industry, for example, take into consideration indirect impacts on parts manufacturers and materials suppliers and even less direct (“induced”) impacts on industries that in turn supply them. But arts organizations engage more and more varied kinds of industries, many of which are closer to the surface of consumer society. Impacts are felt far beyond supply, in adjacent creative industries like fashion and design, and flowing right through to consumer products and the media; film, television and new media. (As discussed in this UK study.)

Another interesting tool to look at is a calculator called the Tourism and Recreation Economic Impact Model (TREIM) created by the Government of Ontario. Its multipliers are much smaller than those used by AFTA, but still produce impressive numbers for organizations for whom audiences or visitors are a primary driver. Audiences are measurable and so are their impacts, and organizations can set goals for themselves, milestones that will verify their assumptions and validate their strategy, or, if the numbers don’t materialize the way you hoped, allow you to course correct and try something else, just like businesses do.

In the end, the important thing is not whether you have 15  or 500 people you serve (clients, customers, visitors or whatever) but whether you can verify the number before you start and measure how it changes because of your program or project. If you can do that, and measure other impacts, you will not just be satisfying a funder’s seemingly arbitrary requirements;  you will find it useful, helping you to do a better job achieving the goals you set.