Think of it as kind of a Dragon’s Den for charitable organizations.
Later this afternoon, dozens of local groups will come cap in hand to city council’s committee of the whole, looking for funding for their group’s activities.
Like the popular TV show, the contestants have two minutes to make their pitch for cash to support their programs.
“This event is one of my favourite of the year,” says Mayor Kathy Moore. “You get a chance to see what all these different community groups are doing.”
Moore and her fellow councillors will play the part of the dragons … the people with the cash, doling out money to the worthiest groups. The money comes from the Columbia Basin Trust’s community initiatives program. Every municipality and regional district gets part of the funds, to spend how they think it will best meet their community’s needs.
But like the Dragon’s Den, there’s only so much money to go around: this year, Rossland council has $51,635 to dole out but they have $78,024 worth of requests.
“Clearly there are going to be some disappointed people,” says Moore.
Which makes it tough on the dragons. How to decide the worthiest?
There’s a dance troupe looking for money for their Anti-Bullying Movement Program. The Colombo Hall wants $200 to go towards its wireless microphone and projector system. Camp Tweedsmuir wants $1,500 for sand for its climbing wall. The Rossland library wants $900 to start a gardening club. Also in the growing theme, the Youth Area Network is looking for about $900 for plantings around the skateboard park. The Girl Guides want $1,085 for roof repairs to cabins at their Camp Rory.
Without enough money to meet demand, council has come up with rules to try to help guide them in their decisions.
Moore says every municipal body has their own way of distributing the funds — other regions, for instance, ask the public to rate the importance of projects.
“What is benefiting Rossland the most, what do Rosslanders want?” Moore says councillors ask themselves. “We tend to stay away from activities that should be taken care of by some other entity, a school or something else. Should someone else should be supporting it?”
Each councillor goes through the list of applicants, and rates its importance from 1 to 4, according to the councillor’s own priorities.
“We try to give No. 1 priorities as much of their request as we can afford to,” says Moore. “The next level of priority we might still think is good, but we won’t give as much because it’s not as important as the others.”
Moore says once they know the majority of councillors support an initiative, they start to haggle over how much each organization will get.
“Each councillor spends the $51,000 as they see fit,” she says. “Then we go around the table, ask each councillor what their allocation is and why, and everybody gives their justification.
“Then we average it out. That’s how we end up with the final amounts.”
While some groups may walk away disappointed, Moore sees the competition as a sign of a healthy community.
“We have such an active volunteer community. We have a lot of groups working on a lot of projects that are worthy and wonderful, so it’s really exciting,” she says. “But that’s the hardest part, to cut somebody back.
“We never have a problem spending the money and it is a very exciting time to see what people are doing in the community that we might not otherwise be aware of.”