Thank you, Liz.
While I respect that OTF’s role as a funder is not to provide a source of ongoing core operating funds, OTF’s multi-year Operating Grants for an organization’s ongoing program costs** in the 4 years prior to the new investment strategy made a significant impact to environmental organizations here in Ottawa & our surrounding communities.
I agree that under the new grant strategy the average grant size increased and that you are investing Millions into the Green People action area. However, a few different OTF Program Managers have made it clear to me that the “Seed” investment stream is for new programs, not ongoing programs. Likewise, the “Grow” investment stream is for new growth, not to sustain ongoing programs. The “Grow” example given by one program manager was if an NGO was planting 2000 trees and wanted to plant 4000 trees, grow grant would fund the incremental (new) overhead and administrative costs associated with planting an additional 2000 trees but not the costs associated with planting the first 2000 trees.
That puts non-profit environmental organizations here in Ottawa (and perhaps other areas) at an incredible disadvantage and likely speaks directly to why “in the last fiscal year, [you] saw the lowest number of applications in Green People”. What I see happening here in Ottawa is that since environmental NGOs lack any source of multi-year ongoing program funding (eg. to plant 2000 trees again next year) they can not leverage the “Grow” investment stream (eg. to plant an additional 2000 trees for a total of 4000 trees). So what has been happening is that they either scale down operations or pivot to new programs (eg. ZERO trees are planted by the organization/program). Often, OTF has been a funder to help create these environmental programs which come to an abrupt halt. Personally, I feel that planting 2000 trees (using the same staff, same knowledge, same partners which a seed grant proved successful) would be a better project result of Green Stream’s “People and resource users take deliberate action to benefit the environment”. Instead, our community now sees such programs come to an abrupt end. This happened much less frequently here in Ottawa when OTF’s mulit-year operating grants were available.
In fact, only 7 environmental NGOs over the past 5 years have had the capacity to manage and deliver an OTF Grow grant. Here is the list from your open data site:
I know most of these organizations, love the work that they do, and see the benefits & impacts of many OTF-funded programs they have delivered here in our region. I strongly urge your colleagues & OTF Board members to look at this list of organizations and ask them:
- Where their ongoing program funding for non-profitable environmental programming comes from, and
- Where they expect ongoing program funding to come from 3 years from now.
I invite any current or former staff/board/volunteers from any of these organizations who are reading this to join in this conversation with their lived experience.
Now, ask those same two questions to those involved with the 27 champlain-area organizations who received some of the $5,498,000 investment into Prosperous People seed & grow grants over the same time period. Almost all are social or economic sector NGOs. I have spoken informally with many of them and the majority of them have multiple streams of multi-year ongoing program funding. They cite $50,000 to $1,000,000+ renewable community funding from the City of Ottawa, ongoing programs funded by public foundations such as the United Way Ottawa, and some also mentioned ongoing funding through the province such as the Local Health Integration Networks.
These funding streams allow them to continue their successful non-profitable social & economic programs (eg. teaching new skills to 2000 precariously-employed workers) so they can leverage the “Grow” investment stream (eg. teaching new skills to an additional 2000 precariously-employed workers for a total of 4000).
As the Green Stream demonstrates, OTF understands that non-profitable environmental work such as conservation & restoration is completely different than non-profitable Community Health programming and non-profitable Economic Development programming. So too are the environmental NGOs delivering this work. What seems to be less understood, however, is that unlike lifting citizens out of poverty, empowering youth or improving employment the flora & fauna who are the direct beneficiaries of some of the most important conservation & restoration work our city/province/nation has ahead of us will never become monthly donors or increase an organization’s “planned giving” revenue when they die.
** References from OTF’s 2014 Program Guideline Manual: