Neighbourhood Small Grants
Small Grants, Huge Impact
The Neighbourhood Small Grants (NSG) program from the Victoria Foundation supports individuals within four core communities of Victoria, specifically Quadra Village, North Park, Burnside Gorge, and Oaklands neighbourhoods, with the goal of helping them build community and create stronger connections with the people around them. While the dollar amount of the grant is relatively low — the maximum per grant is $500 — the low barrier to access and minimal reporting requirements let applicants focus on the project without spending too much time on the administration. The grants are provided to people in the community for projects specific to that community.
“Community members know best how to support connection in their own communities and their own neighbourhoods,” said Kayla Gruntman, NSG coordinator for our local program. “The NSG is a great tool to bring these community projects to life.”
What could you do with an extra $500 to improve your community?
Building Creative Outlets
The pandemic hit everyone in different ways, and for young people who are typically able to burn off excess energy through outdoor activities, isolation and confinement to home were serious issues. When an 11-year-old applicant shared that his friends and neighbours needed a creative and connection-focused outlet, it made sense to help him bring the idea to life. His project was called BuildingBros and was designed to be a five-week virtual camp that used Zoom to bring in mentors to teach building skills, tool usage and safety, and some creative concepts. Part of the grant funds was used to cover all the supplies the BuildingBros would need, so everyone had access from the start. The virtual sessions ran once a week, with a show-and-tell segment for each of the participants to share their project’s progress. At the end of the five weeks, they met safely at a celebration where they got to see each other in person, simply hanging out and discussing what they’d learned and what they were planning next. While the project only cost $500, the value to these boys is immeasurable.
“Not only was this a youth-led project,” shared Kayla, “it supported youth who were predominantly newcomers to the area and to Canada. They all got to have fun and learn new skills and connect, which is so special because it really highlighted the goal of community building by the community.”
Valuing the Sharing of Knowledge
One of the recent changes made to the NSG program allows applicants to pay an honorarium of up to $350 to anyone who contributes skills or knowledge to the project, even if it’s to the applicant themselves. “Expecting free labour from people is unethical,” said Kayla. “Letting applicants pay themselves as facilitators ensures that people are being compensated fairly for their time and knowledge sharing.” This particular change has helped bring multiple BIPOC-led anti-racism projects to life.
Food Security Through Community
Another project funded by the NSG from the Victoria Foundation is a free community pantry in Kin Park in Duncan. The project saw a team of local youth, business owners, and members of the community come together to create a “take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can” pantry. The stand was built with reclaimed lumber — including upcycled pallets — by students in the construction program at Vancouver Island University and naturally insulated with earthen material, including clay, straw, and wood chips.
“The way this group brought in members of the community — volunteers to keep the shelves stocked and remove any food that is past its prime, construction students to help build the structure, and local organizations to provide the staples — this is exactly the kind of local impact we love to see with the NSGs,” said Tanya Chasse, administrative assistant at the Victoria Foundation. “This group identified a need for their community, then came together to put something together that will make a positive impact for their friends and neighbours.”
How Does it Work?
The Victoria chapter of the NSG usually has two intakes per year, and grant applications can be submitted through a quick and easy online application system. The projects can focus on just about anything that will benefit the community, such as the BuildingBros, the community pantry, and anti-racism discussions, but it can also include sharing skills and knowledge, creating ways to celebrate or heal together, delivering care packages, and various ways to create better connections. Find inspiration through some of the previous NSG projects, then sign up to be notified of the next intake session so you can share your idea with friends and families around you.