Empowering community foundations through matching grants

Pat Short, Fort St. James Community Foundation chair, presenting Certificate of Donation for the 777 Challenge to Karen Andros of Conifex.

Pat Short, Fort St. James Community Foundation chair, presenting Certificate of Donation for the 777 Challenge to Karen Andros of Conifex.

While still in its infancy, the Fort St. James Community Foundation now has a balance of more than $200,000 and is already disbursing grants. The Fort St. James Community Foundation was established with the help of the Trust’s Community Foundation Matching Grant program.

The Community Foundation Matching Grants program provides all interested municipalities or regional district electoral areas with up to $50,000 from a regional development account in matched funding to assist with establishment of a dedicated endowment within a registered community foundation. Every dollar raised by the community is matched by Northern Development up to $50,000, yielding a potential endowment account value of $100,000. Since 2007, Northern Development has matched more than $1,680,000 in funds. Matched, these funds have a value of more than $3 million.

The original $25,000 needed for the Trust’s matching grant was raised by community members through events, bake sales and other fundraisers. The community foundation now has a goal of reaching $1 million by 2020.

Joyce Helweg, past president of the Fort St. James Community Foundation, remembers the warm reception from community members and industry partners alike from the first fundraising efforts. Their support, coupled with the matching grant from Northern Development, ensured the community foundation’s success.

“Since the idea first arose, a group of volunteers diligently worked at forming a registered society and educating our community that their gift was a gift that never quit giving. Innovative thinkers keep coming up with different programs that contribute to our endowment fund.
The Community Foundation began awarding its first grants totaling $1,000 in 2014. The following year, the foundation issued $10,000 and has awarded $5,000 so far this year.

“When a donor asks, ‘who will benefit in Fort St. James?’ We can list seniors, students, support groups, soup kitchens, the hospital, arts council and anyone else that applies within our qualifications. Everyone agrees. A community foundation is a worthwhile effort of creating a vessel to hold funds that benefit your community forever. How can you go wrong with donating to a cause like that? We are grateful to Northern Development for helping us set the wheels in motion!”