Vital Grants - Looking Back & Looking Forward
Five years ago, CBT launched Vital Grants, a stream of partnership funding to address regional priorities and complex challenges that influence sustainability in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region. Vital Grants were created in response to grantee feedback that small grants (e.g. $5,000) and short timelines make it difficult to address larger issues. From 2018-2021, Vital Grants supported:
- 13 collaborative regional projects,
- $250,000 in direct funding,
- 10 organizations, and
- 3 grants to partnerships led by non-qualified donees.
Above: reception celebrating the first Vital Grants in 2018
In 2022, we wanted to look back to understand the impact that Vital Grants are having through a program evaluation. CBT allocated the Vital Grants budget to engage grantees in this work and to provide them with small follow-up grants in reciprocity. The goal was to continue supporting existing projects while learning from project leaders about how the granting process worked for them and how to make it more equitable.
CBT was grateful to work with Trilby Smith, an independent program evaluator with experience working toward equity and social justice, on this review. With grantees, she explored the funding process, grant scale, accessibility, and overall impact. Check out Trilby’s full report here.
The evaluation was completed in three stages:
1) document review (e.g. grant applications, committee review minutes, grant reports),
2) interviews with Vital Grants recipients, and
3) hosting a community conversation to discuss the steps forward.
Above: the Vital Grants community conversation in November 2022.
What we learned
The feedback was generally positive with grantees valuing: the diversity of work funded, the partnership focus, and CBT’s flexibility and responsiveness to grantee needs. However, we also heard: the duration of the grant was too short, grantees needed more support during the application process, and there needs to be more transparency about the decision-making process.
Steps we’re taking for Vital Grants 2023
As a grant-making organization seeking to best and most equitably serve the region, we’ve come a long way but there is still a long way to go. Some of the next steps that CBT plans to take this spring for Vital Grants 2023 are:
- move to a two-stage application process;
- piloting providing a small amount of funding to applicants that are invited to submit a full application;
- increase transparency and inclusiveness of the grant evaluation process;
- expand grant outreach and provide additional CBT staff support to applicants; and
- test multi-year funding.
For full details, check out the Vital Grants Review report.