The process of social development in Ontario today has been significantly influenced by thousands of voluntary and self-help associations involved in social action and human service activities and programs. In addition, a well educated highly informed public, assisted and stimulated by both the public and private sectors, has become a potent force in both the introduction and implementation of new programs and approaches concerned with solving rather than alleviating societal ills and problems.
The available resources to meet these rapidly escalating needs and the development of new programs is, however, presently insufficient in both the public and private sectors. Supply has not been able to keep pace with demand.
The impact of these new voluntary self-help and service delivery approaches and resultant activities in both potential funding sectors reflect the following trends:
a) The number of requests to all funding sources has increased dramatically.
b) The typical organization requesting assistance is no longer the traditional established agency but rather the emerging unincorporated community group.
c) The criteria used previously by both sectors in providing assistance are no longer necessarily valid. Many of the organizations soliciting funds are untried, non-structured along traditional lines, and have no apparent permanency or historical stability.
The dilemma for most resource bodies in deploying their funds is to be contemporary and yet relevant; effective and yet safe; community based and yet conscious of total community perceptions.
While research and demonstration grants to hospitals, universities, Y.M.C.A.’s etc. can be fairly easily evaluated and involve a high degree of accountability, requests for funds for community action groups, neighbourhood service units and the like are much more difficult to assess.
Thus, within the general societal context of scarce resources and infinite human and community needs, a rationalization and coordination of public and private funding seemed imperative.
From the community perspective the current situation involves the various groups in a search for funds that is time consuming, competitive, and confusing. These groups find the fund raising process both frustrating and bewildering, while the same feelings are shared by those from whom the funds are solicited, namely, churches, unions, foundations, corporations, United Funds and all levels of government. In light of this situation and in view of the direct experiences of the Office on Community Consultation of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services in the administration of a community development grants program, its research and publication of a handbook on “Resources for Community Groups” (with the cooperation and assistance of the Junior League of Toronto) and its involvement with federally sponsored grants programs such as L.I.P. and O.F.Y., the Office on Community Consultation began in the Fall of 1973 to explore with representative funding sources the merit of convening a seminar involving major funding bodies from both the public and private sectors.
The Agenda Committee
The Junior League of Toronto was approached by the Office with the task of co-sponsoring and chairing this seminar. As a funding organization committed to voluntarism and actively involved in sponsoring and staffing service projects in the community, the League not only had the experience and womanpower to make such a meeting possible but as well projected a neutral perspective in the funding community. Exploratory meetings were held with the United Community Fund, the Canadian Bar Association’s National Committee on Charitable Organizations, Manufacturers Life Insurance Company, Metropolitan Social Planning Committee, the Laidlaw Foundation, and I.B.M. in order to assess whether a seminar dealing with the topic of community funding would be of interest and value to fundors. Representatives of these organizations without exception viewed the possibility of sponsoring a funding seminar as a breakthrough in establishing communication between funding bodies.
It was generally agreed in these meetings that the primary purpose and value of a funding seminar would be to explore in greater depth common problems and concerns in the funding community and to identify possible solutions. The seminar would not serve as a forum for soliciting funds nor would it challenge the funding sector, private or public, to defend its individual funding rationale, criteria or patterns.
A committee composed of representatives of three levels of government, the private sector, foundations, and corporations was formed to plan the seminar agenda. The Agenda Committee meetings accurately reflected the concerns documented earlier about the changing patterns in community funding. The final agenda was agreed upon after more than two months of regular meetings and after taking into account each member’s unique perspective and approach to what was commonly referred to as the “funding dilemma”.
The Future of Funding Seminar was held May 6th and 7th at the Westbury Hotel in Toronto with 120 delegates in attendance. They represented government agencies, churches, private community organizations, service clubs, foundations and corporations. They were asked to evaluate and analyze “typical” grant requests; they were asked to challenge existing funding criteria;they had the opportunity in small group discussions to meet with representatives of funding bodies reflecting specific interests, the public domain, vested interest groups, large and small budgets. And out of this variety of interests, problems, and questions specific common goals and needs were agreed upon. Among them were the following: a) The need for more communication among funding sources. b) The need for an information network which could keep fundors abreast of current funding trends and funding sources in the community.
c) The need to encourage more joint (i.e. private and public, foundation and corporation) funding of projects.
d) The need to develop a coordinated approach to funding and set some reasonable common goals.
At the closing session it was agreed that the seminar had served a very valuable purpose -that of bringing together a small representative community of fundors for the first time. It was an important first step towards establishing more unity among funding sources. The common concensus was that this momentum should not be lost. A committee has been formed, again under the leadership of the Junior League of Toronto, to explore what the next steps should be and to take some specific action towards achieving these goals.
LILI GARFINKEL, Freelance consultant on community services; formerly of the Office on Community Consultation of the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services.