John Howard Society of Durham Region
Mission: To reduce the impact of crime and its causes by providing a spectrum of effective prevention and intervention programs.
Main office: 905-579-8482, 75 Richmond Street West, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 1E3

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Non-Profit Agencies Across Durham Struggle for Funding:

Mar 20, 2006
By Erin Hatfield Staff Writer

DURHAM -- A silent scream has been echoing in the non-profit sector of Canada for years, according to Paul Dobbs.

From the Victorian Order of Nurses to the Durham Region Employment Network and the Volunteer Resource Centre for Durham Region, the core funding non-profit agencies need to stay alive just isn't out there. Core funding is the money that pays for rent, hydro bills and paperclips.

Mr. Dobbs is the community education and development coordinator for the John Howard Society of Durham Region, and one of the hats he wears involves locating funding. Even the John Howard Society has been stretched to the limit in order to maintain the services it offers. The society is a not-for-profit agency that provides services for youth, adults, men and women, including counselling, parenting and youth courses, employment and housing. It does have some core funding from the area United Way organizations, but there is not an abundance of money out there.

"While there are plenty of foundations and various government grants to apply for, these are mostly short-term resources," Mr. Dobbs said.

"The big problem is many funders have gone towards project-oriented funding," he said.

Such funding is money that has a limited life span. Sometimes it's one year, sometimes as much as four or five years, but it eventually ends.

"So how do you keep it going?" Mr. Dobbs said. "You can get it started but how do you keep it going?"

It means a lot of time has to be spent just trying to keep programs afloat.

Fund chasing is a draining process, according to Mr. Dobbs. It can take weeks to complete a single grant application, as each funding body has its own rules, questions and detail requirements. What it comes down to, Mr. Dobbs said, is that social services, such as those provided by the society, are not tangible. Therefore there is a reluctance to sponsor them.

"How do you measure someone's happiness?" Mr. Dobbs said. "They want something measurable, but how do you measure something like a reduction in crime?"

The casualties of the lack of core funding are the communities that lose access to valuable, cost-effective services.

Bill Fry, executive director of the John Howard Society, agrees with Mr. Dobbs.

"(Non profits) can't get the money for salaries and that is what is necessary," Mr. Fry said. "We can get a table, we can get a chair, but what we need are salaries."

According to Mr. Fry, both project-oriented funding and also core funding are needed to keep local non-profits alive.

"Project-orientated funding is very short sighted," Mr. Fry said. "It doesn't take into account the need for infrastructure."

The infrastructure at the Durham Region Employment Network (DREN) has taken 13 years to build. The DREN is an alliance of 70 organizations that work together and share ideas to help clients find employment. Executive director Edie Corneil explained the lack of core funding has left the DREN dangerously close to folding. Already, on Feb. 28, half of its staff was let go when project funding from Industry Canada ran out. There's enough money to keep going for, at most, 10 months.

"There is no core funding anymore," Ms. Corneil said. "There is only project funding, and right now there isn't even any of that out there."

With the change in the federal government in January, Ms. Corneil said staff are still waiting to see what money will be put out there for non-profit organizations.

But in order for the DREN to continue servicing the community effectively, it needs funding, ideally core funding.

"If we could secure core funding it would be huge," Ms. Corneil said. "Then we could actually service our clients."

In an effort to draw attention to the core-funding crisis, Ms. Corneil said the DREN will host Martha Hall Findlay, candidate for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada, at the organization's networking meeting on Wednesday, March 22 at 2 p.m. at the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.