They came for the wine, the company, and the big decision: A gift of $2,000 to help boost support services and caregiver relief in West Niagara.
At the inaugural 40 at the Forty fundraising event, forty philanthropists from the Grimsby area gathered to choose between three worthy causes to support that night. The lucky winner was Rose Cottage Community Hospice, coming away with $2,000 of a total $4,000 in gifts. The other two organizations each received $500, and the remaining $1,000 went to the Grimsby Community Fund – the Niagara Community Foundation’s local endowment fund covering Grimsby.
“It’s a very classy event,” said Rose Cottage’s Executive Director, Sherry Cain. “Just the way that it’s set up. You arrive. There’s hospitality. There’s food. It’s a beautiful venue – Peninsula Ridge Winery.”
“For us, it’s not all about the financial gain, but an opportunity for us to make the community aware of our services.”
The grant, Cain said, will go towards popular drop-in and transportation programs that Rose Cottage provides. But it’s far from the only community-building grant coming to Grimsby through the Niagara Community Foundation and the Grimsby Community Fund.
The Grimsby Fund officially opened in 2014, joining the Niagara Community Foundation’s roster of local Community Funds – endowment funds which pay out grants specifically to great causes in each of Niagara’s local area municipalities. As of 2019, Grimsby’s fund – in which funds are held in perpetuity, with payouts coming from the interest on the total endowment – held approximately $120,000. More 40 at the Forty events are planned, along with other grants to help great causes in the community.
“We’re always looking for ways to grow (the fund) to keep serving charities within the community,” said Gary Evans, chair of the Grimsby Fund Committee and a Foundation board member.
Evans said 40 at the Forty is the big event the fund has focused on over the past six months.
“We are able to get three small charities for each event out from the community, where they come and explain what they do. Our goal is really giving them exposure to the forty philanthropic people who attend the events and make a connection to potential donors,” he said.
The donations are practically a sidebar, he said. Just as valuable is building connections between charities and philanthropists – relationships that make fundraising easier for a small charity. It’s tough for a small organization to build awareness, Evans said. But through 40 at the Forty, charities can make contacts which can have a lasting impact on their ability to do their jobs.
Grimsby Fund board member Don Stewart, who came up with 40 on the Forty, said he was inspired by similar events in larger communities. “The Grimsby Fund was looking for a unique way to increase our exposure in the philanthropic community and learn more about charitable causes in our community. The concept fills both goals,” he said.
“We are pleased with the response of our membership and the presenters have expressed their gratitude openly. I can say that all of us have learned a great deal about great things happening in Grimsby.”
The events have had an effect on community awareness not only for the charities, Evans said, but for the Grimsby Fund itself. “We’re able to see that over the last six to eight months… we’ve been receiving more opening of funds (by families) within the Grimsby Community Fund that have a legacy in the community.”
Bob Bentley, the former Grimsby Mayor, was key in establishing the fund. He followed the success of the Niagara Community Foundation since its inception, along with its work helping charities in need.
“When I had an opportunity to start the Grimsby Community Fund, I saw it as a great way to show leadership, raise the fund profile, encourage others to contribute large or small amounts and help out the many worthwhile charities in our community,” Bentley said. “I hope others will carry on the work we started and help grow the fund so our many charities can benefit and continue their great work.”
Stewart said he joined the fund because he wanted to support grassroots charities. Many non-profit and charitable groups, he said, do wonderful work in the communities, but self-funding and fundraising are constant pressures, and they escalate each year.
“These organizations really depend on philanthropic support in order to fulfill their mission statement. A community fund gives donors the opportunity to support these organizations in perpetuity,” he said.
Bryan Rose, Executive Director of the Niagara Community Foundation, says the Foundation will keep working to support good causes in the Grimsby community.
“It’s important for us to have a very local focus on Niagara’s communities. That’s why we have our community funds,” Rose said. “We’re incredibly gratified to see how well Grimsby has responded to us so far, and we’re looking forward to supporting great programs for a long time to come.”
For small charities like Rose Cottage, Cain says the Grimsby Community Fund is invaluable. While many large charities have their own fundraising arms, smaller grassroots charities – many of which have been around for decades – have opportunities through the Fund to give back.
“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “There are so many well-deserving charities in Niagara, period, but especially in West Niagara.”
But it’s not all small gifts: The Niagara Community Foundation’s impact in Grimsby has brought help for large projects, including helping the Grimsby Auxiliary Marine Rescue Unit (GAMRU) South Shore Search and Rescue move closer to making a life-saving investment. A $15,000 grant from the David S. Howes Fund has put the organization closer to purchasing a new fast-response rescue boat. It will replace their current boat, which dates from 1995.
Having a new boat is vital: In 2018, GAMRU deployed 38 times, among 100 deployments over the last three years. That compares to 180 over the previous decade.
The gift puts the organization at approximately $237,000 towards their $275,000 target.
“It was absolutely foundational,” said GAMRU Deputy Unit Leader Doug Mepham. “It gives us momentum in two important areas.” Not only has the grant given staff a sense of confidence, it has given the organization momentum with donors in the broader Grimsby and Lake Ontario community.
“A grant from the Niagara Community Foundation validates our position in the community. It says to other donors, ‘Check these people out. They’re bona fide.’”
The grant from the Foundation was GAMRU’s first. But after reaching out to the Foundation, Mepham said the organization has learned a lot about fundraising. It’s a new approach for them, and a new way to get their name and story out into the community: Many along the Lake Ontario shore do not know what GAMRU South Shore Search and Rescue is, and may meet them only in an emergency. Now, however, more in the community have a chance to know about the work GAMRU does.
“This made it real for us, for our area,” Mepham said.
“In our view, it’s very gratifying.”