BIG News: Funding Opportunities eNewsletter
Volume 5: Issue 10: December 2002
Welcome to BIG News
We’ve developed a new look and feel for BIG News – BIG Online’s funding opportunities
eNewsletter – in the interests of providing easy to read, timely, and valuable information to our
readers. Each month, BIG News will profile successful non-profit organizations and reveal fresh
funding opportunities. We'll also deliver powerful intelligence on trends within the industry and
provide advice on how to get more out of your fundraising efforts. We hope you enjoy this new
VANCOUVER’S JEWISH HIGH SCHOOL EXAMINES ALL THE OPTIONS IN EFFORT TO SECURE
The concept of a permanently established Jewish High School never took hold in Western Canada
the way it did in other Jewish communities across the country. After 53 years of trying,
Vancouver’s Talmud Torah High School (VTTHS) is two-thirds closer to its goal of establishing a
permanent home, successfully raising $12 million in an overall capital campaign valued at $18
The VTTHS, which currently resides on leased property, lives with the ever present threat that once
their lease expires, the future of the high school may also be in jeopardy. Population growth within
the local Jewish community is also a factor, with the school simply outgrowing existing
infrastructure and facilities.
“This community has been promised things in the past that haven’t materialized and this time we
are going to do it absolutely right,” comments Ari Shiff, one of the driving forces behind the
initiative. “We’re not allowing any backsliding.”
Although their early fundraising efforts showed promise, Shiff and his compatriots soon recognized
that the VTTHC needed to broaden its horizons. A connection with the BIG Online Fundraising
Support Centre led him directly to a local consultancy with considerable experience in Jewish
community donations and culture. They helped VTTHS craft a focused strategy, while BIG Online
assisted in the effort to identify and source new opportunities.
Besides employing professional consultants and adopting powerful electronic tools, Shiff began to
look at US foundations as a source of financing, a tactic he believes is often overlooked by
“I suspect there are many US foundations that can and would give in Canada if the project was
presented in such a way that it was of interest to them,” he notes. “Unless it states in their bylaws
that they can only give in the United States, they’re free to give anywhere. It’s also worthwhile
remembering that U.S. dollars go further in Canada.”
Shiff doesn’t restrict his efforts either, approaching foundations in different cities and with different
donation backgrounds. “We’re not just speaking of Jewish foundations. There are many foundations
that support education as well.”
Another opportunity, suggests Shiff, stems from geography and Talmud Torah’s promise to become
the only permanently established Jewish high school west of Winnipeg.
“Vancouver is at the edge of the country, but there are a lot of institutions in the East that we
could develop connections with. We simply have to uncover what those connections are and make
a case for why we should be supported.”
In addition to targeting foundations, the VTTHS campaign focuses on major donors, but with a
twist. “Traditionally, most campaigns in the Jewish community heavily targeted the big donors only
…We wanted one that came from grassroots support and treated the average member of the
Jewish community, or the community at large, with respect.”
GENESIS OF A HIGH SCHOOL
In early 2001, Vancouver Talmud Torah merged with the Vancouver Jewish High School, creating a
combined facility offering a complete Jewish education from preschool to Grade 12.
Shiff’s strong desire to see this temporary arrangement become permanent evolved from personal
experience. His wife went to elementary school in Vancouver, but when she reached high school
age was forced to attend an institution in California to continue her Jewish studies. The Shiff’s
didn’t want their four children to experience that same type of dislocation.
“We took up the challenge that week and initiated a campaign to prove that there was indeed a
strong interest in establishing a permanent Jewish high school in Vancouver.”
Shiff, his wife, and their colleagues began searching for quantifiable support for the initiative by
conducting a school wide survey of students and parents. The effort helped determine just how
many families wanted their children to receive a high school level Jewish education. Almost 75% of
students surveyed – from nursery school through grade 7 – demonstrated overwhelming support
and interest in the project.
One of the other ways in which Shiff and his colleagues proved out long-term support was to
launch a campaign encouraging every member of the community to make a donation, no matter
how small. With an impressive 84% backing of the parent body, this pilot campaign raised
According to Shiff the money raised from this particular initiative was secondary to the overriding
objective of engaging the local Jewish community and demonstrating to at least one prospective
donor that demand for the project was high. “The point of that campaign wasn’t about the money –
it was about active participation.”
With another six million dollars to go in their capital fundraising campaign, Shiff expects to
continue using BIG Online as one of his main resources. “BIG Online contains a comprehensive
North American database of funding sources and we will be looking into every possible source of
funding. Current efforts have already produced results, with several foundations making generous
BIG Lessons: Canadian non-profits and charities would be well advised to look to the United
States as a potential source of funding. Think hard about how you can make a case for funding
from U.S.-based donors and make a trial effort. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.
ARTS STABILIZATION FUND HELPS MANITOBA’S CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS ACT LIKE
The line outside Harold Buchwald’s office gets longer everyday. But it’s no wonder he’s so popular.
Buchwald is the first Executive Director of the newly established Arts Stabilization Manitoba Inc., a
$6-million program designed to improve the business practices and financial status of arts and
cultural organizations throughout the province.
According to Buchwald, the bulk of not-for-profit cultural organizations remain “marginal
businesses”, which have a hard time just balancing their budgets and breaking even.
Unfortunately, merely surviving from year to year is not good enough in today’s world.
“Funders were getting tired of bailing these organizations out,” notes Buchwald. Increasingly,
private donors began turning to stabilization foundations to ensure local cultural institutions could
develop greater business discipline.
Buchwald says his primary job is twofold: to encourage local arts and culture organizations to
adopt solid business practices and then advance them the working capital they need to be
successful. The actual funds dispersed by Arts Stabilization Manitoba are “incidental” to the overall
goal of whipping cultural institutions into shape and ensuring recipients can operate within a
“We’re a business program first and a funding program second,” he suggests.
Any arts or cultural organization in Manitoba is eligible to apply for the program. There is, however,
one catch. Prospective applicants must first prove that their accumulated deficit is no more than
25% of their overall operating budget. They must also demonstrate a surplus of funds in the
previous calendar year. “Pretty much anyone can apply as long as they can make the business
Any cultural organization accepted into Buchwald’s program must first undergo a thorough
assessment and evaluation of their operations by a firm of business consultants appointed and paid
for by Arts Stabilization Manitoba. Once an audit has been completed, the consultants will
recommend basic business improvements and implementation of some proven business practices.
Participants must then develop a long term business plan and present this to the Arts Stabilization
fund for review. The business plan will contain details about how the prospective organization plans
to operate more effectively and efficiently in the future. Successful applicants will then be issued
with a working capital grant of as much as $500,000 spread over four years.
“At this point we haven’t made any donations,” added Buchwald. “Our clients are still undergoing
an analysis by business consultants.”
The Manitoba Arts Stabilization fund is supported by major contributions from three levels of
government: $1-million from the Feds, a matching contribution from the province, and $500,000
from the City of Winnipeg. Private foundations and corporate donors – like the J.W. McConnell
Family Foundation and local player the Investors Group – also play a major role.
The Manitoba Museum and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet are among the first arts and cultural
organization to qualify for the Manitoba Arts Stabilization program. But many others are clawing
and scratching at Buchwald’s door in the hopes of getting in.
“We’ve got a bit of a lineup. But they have to qualify first.”
ARTS STABILIZATION PROGRAMS ON THE GROW
Launched in January of this year, Arts Stabilization Manitoba is the newest member in a growing
list of provincial institutions dedicated to promoting cultural “stability and sustainability”, notes
Arts Stabilization Manitoba is simply building on the proven records of other well-established
foundations in Alberta, Vancouver, Nova Scotia, and Hamilton’s Bay Area. These arts stabilization
groups reach back as far as 1995, with new funds – like one in Saskatchewan – coming on the
The evolution of these cultural support organizations stems from the dynamics and nature of the
cultural and arts sector. To paraphrase Buchwald, they’re too much the artist to function precisely
like a regular business. But they’re also businesses, whose product just happens to be cultural or
artistic in nature.
The goal of these groups is – essentially – to ensure the long-term viability of leading arts
organizations by helping them help themselves. The ability of arts and cultural institutions to reach
new audiences, improve their governance and management structures, and diversify funding
sources are imperative to survival. Through the arts stabilization foundations, these important
groups are provided with the time and resources necessary to embark on a rigorous exercise of
Like Buchwald’s Manitoba Arts Stabilization Fund and their more established compatriots in Alberta
and Vancouver, the activities of Canada’s cultural stabilization foundations, “start from the premise
that arts organizations are enterprises”.
BIG Lesson: Arts stabilization groups can help your cultural organization to function more
efficiently and effectively. Arts stabilization groups are proliferating across Canada. One may even
be open for business near you.
Canada’s arts stabilization funds: Vancouver Arts Stabilization Team, Alberta Performing Arts
Stabilization Fund, Bay Area Arts and Heritage Stabilization Program, Foundation for Heritage and
the Arts (Halifax); Arts Stabilization Manitoba Inc.
WHO NEEDS BIG ONLINE? THIS MONTH’S USER SPOTLIGHT: FIRST NATIONS
A lot of First Nations non-profit and charitable organizations are stuck in a Catch 22. While the pool
of funding from traditional donors in government is frozen – or even shrinking – demand for their
services continues to rise.
Whether you’re a First Nations charity looking for funding for programs dealing with at risk youth,
adult re-training, economic development, capital funding, arts and culture, education, or
healthcare, there’s over $2-billion currently available from Canada’s private foundations.
Private sector funding is a huge – but still largely unrealized – source of support for the majority of
First Nations charities and non-profits. Take the Royal Bank’s Financial Group Foundation as just
one example. Established in 1993, the Financial Group Foundation has over $33 million in assets
and gives to a wide variety of organizations (including many in the First Nations community)
dedicated to the arts, education, health care, and social services. In 2002, the foundation will
disburse up to $2-million for after school programs alone.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE CLINIC TURNS TO PRIVATE SECTOR
Poundmaker’s Lodge of Edmonton is one First Nation’s group that clearly recognizes the value of
private sector funding and is working hard to cultivate relationships in the sector.
“We are an aboriginal organization and indigenous treatment centre and there is a growing need
for addictions treatment across the country and in our community,” says Andrew Hanon, Research
and Communications Officer. “But government funding is limited and we have to find that funding.”
Poundmaker’s currently treats over 600 aboriginal adults and 100 adolescents a year. But every
time they want to increase their capacity or initiate a new program, they have to find a way to pay
for it. “And we have to be creative to find that funding.”
To get at that mountain of private financing, Poundmaker’s uses BIG Online in two significant
ways: to generate new leads and conduct detailed background research on prospective donors.
Hanon believes that BIG Online’s ability to find new funding opportunities is its strongest feature. “I
just can’t stress that enough.”
Poundmaker’s has also started employing BIG Online’s grantwriting templates, resources, and
tools. “The whole idea of grant writing is a brand new thing for us and BIG Online makes it a lot
easier. You don’t have to be an experienced grantwriter to benefit.”
There are currently over 500 First Nations users employing BIG Online to source and secure
funding, increase program capacity, promote economic development, health care projects, training
programs, youth programs, and to build capital funds.
Poundmaker’s Lodge has been given a three month trial subscription of FoundationSearch for their
participation in this article.
For more information about Poundmaker’s, visit www.poundmaker.org
BIG Lesson: The pool of funding from private and corporate foundations is virtually limitless and
most are obligated to give away budgeted funds before the end of each fiscal year. If you don’t
make an application for their funds, someone else will. By closely examining which causes a
specific private foundation or corporation donates to, you may uncover a valuable new stream of
CANADIAN HOUSEHOLDS CONTINUE TO GIVE GENEROUSLY
The numbers are in. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian households gave over $5.5 billion to
charity in 2001, with an average donation of approximately $250 per household. While this figure
represents growth of just 1% over the previous year, it’s clear that even in relatively tough
economic times, Canadians remain committed to the non-profit sector.
The award for the most generous provincial or territorial taxpayers goes to the Nunavut region,
whose households gave a median* of $360 to charity last year. Quebec, however, holds the
dubious distinction of having the least charitable citizens in the country, with a median donation of
just $110 per household.
Canada’s economic engine, Ontario, continued to make up the bulk of household giving, accounting
for almost half of the overall total. Their households, which made a whopping median of $43,200 in
2001, were bang on the national average with a $250 median donation.
But it’s the people of Newfoundland and Labrador who, on balance, appear the most committed to
charitable giving. Even though their household median income was the lowest in Canada at
$31,000 per year, they managed to give a highly respectable $300 to charity.
Young people, it seems, still have a thing or two left to learn from their older neighbors. The
average age for a charitable donation was 52 years, demonstrating that this key demographic still
has the greatest disposable income and predisposition to donate.
The full report, Charitable Donors 2002, can be purchased from Statistics Canada’s “Small Area and
Administrative Data Division”. For more information visit: www.statcan.ca
(* Median refers to the middle value in a survey or statistical analysis.)
BIG Lesson: Individual Canadian households remain a critical segment of the overall donations
market. But there are marked differences in charitable giving by province and age group.
BILL GATES PUTS HIS MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH IS
Love him or hate him, you’ve got to admit that Bill Gates is a pretty decent fellow. So far, the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation has given away more than US$5.5 billion and if he remains true to his
word, needy people throughout the world are in line for a whole lot more.
On a recent trip to India, where his foundation donated $100-million to the fight against HIV/AIDS,
the software giant had a few interesting things to say about his long term legacy. Specifically,
Gates told the Reuters news-service that the bulk of his vast fortune would eventually go to charity
and not his three children.
“The idea that I will take a sizeable portion of my fortune and have them inherit that, I don’t think
that would be to society’s benefit or to their benefit,” he said. “I’ve spoken out about this before …
my philosophy of giving back my wealth to society.”
The Indian HIV/AIDS donation represents the largest single-country grant currently awarded by the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the lives of billions by sharing
advances in health and learning with the global community. Created in January of 2000, through
the merger of two different Gates foundations, the new organization has an endowment of
approximately US$24 billion and is led by Bill’s father, William H. Gates, Sr.
“Personally, I hadn't planned on getting involved in philanthropy until later in life – when I was in
my sixties (and) when I could devote full time to it,” Gates told the UN Secretary General’s
Luncheon in September.
“But the more I learned, the more I realized there is no time. Disease won't wait. So I committed
myself to this cause, and I will keep that commitment for the rest of my life.”
Gates added that today one in 12 children dies before the age of five, with most perishing from
preventable diseases such as measles, malaria, and diarrhea. But there is good news: where better
healthcare and education take hold, women choose to have fewer children and literacy, equality,
the environment, and economic opportunity all improve.
“When health improves,” he suggests, “life improves – by all measures.”
Although Gates is committed to giving away billions more on behalf of the world’s less fortunate
children, don’t spend too much time worrying about how his own kids will fare.
“Certainly, I’ll make sure they are taken care of in the sense that they can live a very comfortable
BIG Lesson: Is there a growing perception that HIV/AIDS has been defeated in the developed
world? Next month, BIG News will publish an analysis of HIV/AIDS funding in North America.
Discover some of the perceptual barriers (and solutions) to raising funds in this important health-
Ask our Experts
This month’s tip: calling prospective donors.
Do foundations object to unsolicited calls prior to submitting letters of inquiry or a grant proposal?
Generally speaking, the answer is ‘no’. But foundations tend to react negatively to questions that,
had you done your profile research beforehand, would not need to be asked. A timely call to a
foundation prior to submitting your letter of inquiry or proposal, however, will help ensure that you
are sending it to the right person and the right address. It might even make your name stick in
their mind when it comes time to review the application.
BIG Online added more than 1000 grants, worth over $36 million in new funding, to its database in
November. Eight new corporate profiles were also added to the database during the month.
Quote of the Month
"BIG Online is so well thought out and user friendly. But a company is only as good as their staff
and the Metasoft front line is so professional. Over the years I have been amazed that they
constantly have excellent service providers."
Bob Pope, Coordinator
Special Events, Penticton Community Centre, Penticton, BC
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