“We are shameless about learning” is one of the guiding principles of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation. In that spirit, we have been working to pilot two new (to us) types of granting: Neighbourhood Action Grants and General Operating Support.
Following a co-design process that engaged residents, community organizations and leaders in community development, the Foundation launched a Neighbourhood Action Grant (NAG) pilot in 2018 in two neighbourhoods. NAG are small grants (up to $500) intended to help residents take action on things they care about in their neighbourhoods. They are a way for the Foundation to invest in making change where it often starts anyway – right at the grassroots.
The goals of the Neighbourhood Action Grants are to:
The Foundation partners with local agencies already at work in the neighbourhoods. An Action Grant Coach in each neighbourhood promotes the grants and supports residents from initial idea to application through to project implementation and reporting. Coaches also connect residents to resources.
Following a successful pilot year, the Foundation expanded Neighbourhood Action Grants into two additional neighbourhoods in 2019 and they are currently active in:
Here is more about the NAG model and some of what we’ve learned so far:
General Operating Support (GOS) provides organizations with unrestricted funding, often with a longer time commitment than project funding and covering core organizational expenses that would exist regardless of specific program activities. Why is GOS needed? The cost of doing business (infrastructure, human resources) is increasing while funding is becoming more constrained and narrow. In addition, short-term, project-based funding and expectations for low operating costs have created a capacity trap for nonprofits, where they become program rich and operationally poor.
With these realities in mind, and the goal of truly supporting organizations to achieve their missions, the Foundation launched a GOS pilot in 2018. These grants are intended to strengthen organizations as opposed to expanding their services. The goal of the pilot is to learn more about GOS in order to determine whether and how to scale it.
The Foundation invited an initial cohort of three organizations to participate. These partners were selected based on a range of criteria, including mission alignment (focus on children and families, prevention), a strong existing relationship with LSHF, a learning orientation, and a commitment to big picture collaborative work. Carizon, YWCA Cambridge and Kinbridge Community Association make up the first GOS cohort.
The evaluation from cohort 1 has demonstrated that GOS for trusted, established organizations is indeed an effective grantmaking strategy, particularly during times of crisis. Cohort 2 will help us to learn about GOS for collaboratives. In Fall 2020, the following collaboratives joined the pilot: The Resilence Project, Early Literacy Alliance of Waterloo Region and Waterloo Region Family Network.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Laura Manning, spoke with Cathy Mann about GOS for her podcast “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask” in September 2019. You can find the recording here, Episode 13: What if they spend it badly?
Here is more about the GOS pilot and some of what we’ve learned so far: