I’d like to welcome you to the Community Forward Fund and to my first blog.
Over the past year, Arlene and I have been on an amazing journey as we lift this startup off the ground.
It’s been amazing in large part due to the way our supporters from Vancity and Citizens Bank have understood and embraced our vision and with many thanks to our advisors who have always rolled up their sleeves to make things happen.
It has also been a great learning opportunity as we go across Canada giving workshops and learning from and about hundreds of organizations who have come to tell us their financing stories.
At each of these events and in one-to-one discussions, I’m asked over and over again, what set me on this path and why I decided to create the Community Forward Fund. I answered some of these questions in my article for The Philanthropist.
But there is more to our journey. Given it is election time, I’ve been thinking about good friends and past mentors from the political world.
I’m reminded of the mother of an old friend. Though she passed away some years ago, I think of her often when I am confronted by new ideas that don’t quite fit where I think they should.
She and I shared an interest in public policy. She had been a local and provincial politician and, while we rarely agreed, her willingness to engage in long debates with someone so young is something I will never forget.
A political veteran, she had supported one Party all her life. This was the Party of her parents, the Party that could Get Things Done, the Party that had elected her and allowed her to do her life’s work in the community.
However, slowly, she began to feel that her Party was changing. It was no longer meeting her needs. It’s not that her values were changing, nor were the people she was working with.
It just became clear to her that the vehicle that she had always used to get things done was shifting. The Party wasn’t doing its job anymore. It didn’t get her to where she needed to be and was, at times, becoming a hindrance, more than a help.
She struggled for a long time and, one day, a sign appeared on her front lawn during a federal election and it was not for the Party she was known to support.
One of her neighbours called on her in alarm: someone must have put that sign up by accident or as a prank! It must be wrong, her neighbour told her.
No, she said. I just think it’s time to try another route to get things done.
That, in essence, is my feeling now. The nonprofit and charitable sector is incredibly creative and strong. It has had its feet knocked out from under it by the ever-changing financial landscape, but fundamentally its values, its people and what it stands for haven’t changed.
The vehicle charities and nonprofits believe they have been using most – grants from government and other sources – can’t get the job done for everyone and hasn’t for many years. It is a source that is becoming more and more scarce and for some has run dry completely. It’s not a surprise that over 40% of system revenues now come from fees and other sources. Yet, there are many groups that still believe that grants are the only option.
Like my friend’s Party, some grants have become a hindrance and make it harder to move forward. That doesn’t mean throwing them out is an option. My friend continued to support her Party when she saw that it was right for her. But she decided that for her, a single option wasn’t going to work. Neither will just one funding source.
Money is the vehicle that gets us to our destination. Grants are one vehicle and will always be essential, but isn’t it time we had more options?
Hence, the birth of the Community Forward Fund.
Loans are just part of the answer. But they are an important missing link that some organizations have been exploring for years, very successfully.
CFF, with its partners, is working to offer financing that can be part of a continuum of funding for charities and nonprofits. We believe that having financing options and often, combining more than one creates a vehicle that will best serve sector organizations.
These “combination” vehicles will help keep many organizations on the path to meet their challenges, realize their goals and have impact in the community.
Our goal is a strong, stable and well-financed charitable and nonprofit sector.