“We are shameless about learning” is one of the guiding principles of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation. In that spirit, we have been working to pilot some new (to us) types and areas of granting: Neighbourhood Action Grants, General Operating Support and Housing Grants.
Following a co-design process that engaged residents, community organizations and leaders in community development, the Foundation launched a Neighbourhood Action Grant (NAG) pilot in 2018 in two neighbourhoods. NAG are small grants (up to $650) intended to help residents take action on things they care about in their neighbourhoods. They are a way for the Foundation to invest in making change where it often starts anyway – right at the grassroots.
The goals of the Neighbourhood Action Grants are to:
The Foundation partners with local agencies already at work in the neighbourhoods. An Action Grant Coach in each neighbourhood promotes the grants and supports residents from initial idea to application through to project implementation and reporting. Coaches also connect residents to resources.
The Foundation expanded Neighbourhood Action Grants from two to four neighbourhoods in 2019, and added two more neighbourhoods in 2023. They are currently active in:
In 2023, the Neighbourhood Action Grant pilot wrapped up, with the NAG project becoming embedded in LSHF's ongoing grantmaking work.
Here is more about the NAG model and some of what we learned through the pilot:
General Operating Support (GOS) provides organizations with unrestricted funding, often with a longer time commitment than project funding and covering core organizational expenses that would exist regardless of specific program activities. Why is GOS needed? The cost of doing business (infrastructure, human resources) is increasing while funding is becoming more constrained and narrow. In addition, short-term, project-based funding and expectations for low operating costs have created a capacity trap for nonprofits, where they become program rich and operationally poor.
With these realities in mind, and the goal of truly supporting organizations to achieve their missions, the Foundation launched a GOS pilot in 2018. These grants are intended to strengthen organizations as opposed to expanding their services. The goal of the pilot is to learn more about GOS in order to determine whether and how to scale it.
The Foundation invited an initial cohort of three organizations to participate. These partners were selected based on a range of criteria, including mission alignment (focus on children and families, prevention), a strong existing relationship with LSHF, a learning orientation, and a commitment to big picture collaborative work. Carizon, YWCA Cambridge and Kinbridge Community Association make up the first GOS cohort.
The evaluation from cohort 1 has demonstrated that GOS for trusted, established organizations is indeed an effective grantmaking strategy, particularly during times of crisis. Cohort 2 will help us to learn about GOS for collaboratives. In Fall 2020, the following collaboratives joined the pilot: The Resilence Project, Early Learning & Literacy Alliance (formerly ELAWR) and Waterloo Region Family Network.
The Foundation’s Executive Director, Laura Manning, spoke with Cathy Mann about GOS for her podcast “It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask” in September 2019. You can find the recording here, Episode 13: What if they spend it badly?
In 2022, Laura was interviewed for the Impact Conversations podcast to share LSHF's journey and lessons learned from GOS funding. Listen here: Loosening the Reins on Funding to Enable Impact: The General Operating Support pilot.
In 2023, the GOS pilot will wrap up and shift into an ongoing General Operating Support grant stream. The Foundation will develop a structure and detailed criteria, with specifics announced once they are finalized and approved.
Here is more about GOS and some of what we learned through the pilot:
It is no secret that there is a housing crisis in Waterloo Region. Traditionally, housing has not been an area where the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation has focused its resources. However, as this issue deepens within our community, LSHF has been undertaking research to better understand the local context of housing and homelessness, particularly as it relates to families. The landscape is complex, with many inter-related factors at work.
In 2022, the Board of Trustees approved a Housing Pilot which will allow us to learn about the challenges and gaps that organizations are facing, deepen our relationships with those who best understand this work, and explore the most effective role we can play in housing, particularly as it relates to families and equity-deserving populations. To begin, the Foundation has made a few selected investments in housing projects with trusted partners. These grants are listed on the Housing Grants page.