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Community Foundations launches 2021 with grant funding opportunities

Posted on 20 January 2021 by Ryan Dahlman

Southwest Alberta’s Community Foundation kicked off an expected busy 2021 with the launching of three grant programs last week.

Charleen Davidson, Director of the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta, says this will be an interesting year for the foundation. It is good to get the year off the ground. 

“At this point in time the programs that are open are our regular programs. Last year they shifted, we haven’t done that this year, so right now, this is the regular programs, regular criteria. We know we can’t fund everything that comes in, that’s just the unfortunate reality. We only have so much money,” explains Davidson. “We can only do what we can do, we have three great committees, one for each grants program which reviews the applications, brings the knowledge to the table, they have to make some pretty hard decisions sometimes, but they have to go with what they believe are the best decisions and that recommendation comes forth to our board of directors. People are happy with the decisions made because there’s enough dialogue, conversation and information that is shared. That is why it is so important to have a diverse committee reviewing the applications. Some groups aren’t ready for funding so they will apply for a project that they can’t even start until December so we will say come back in the fall and you will have a better chance at it. We have a pretty good process in place.

The grants: Community Priorities, Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural Life, and Youth in Action, get 2021 started for the foundation. 

In a release, the objective of the Henry S. Varley Fund for Rural life is to provide support to community organizations that work to sustain a high quality of life in rural Southwestern Alberta. The Youth in Action Grants Program aims to empower youth to collaborate on a project that will have a positive impact on their community. Through this experience, youth will ideally gain a greater appreciation and understanding of philanthropy and the difference they can make by giving back.

Davidson says the grant for the Varley Fund for those in the rural area had funds distributing beginning in 2016. 

“It took a while for people to learn about but it is doing quite well now,” explains Davidson about the The application deadline is 4 p.m. on March 15, 2021. “It also supports students from the rural community. Varley is smaller because it is restricted to the rural areas. No one from Lethbridge can apply to that and so we get few numbers.”

For the youth initiative, projects submitted for consideration to this program must be initiated, led, and organized by individuals or groups of youth up to the age of 25, in partnership or collaboration with a charity, municipality, or school. The application deadline is 4 p.m. March 1.

“It has to be youth-led. Youth can be the only ones who apply for it. They can apply with their parents, but it can’t be the parents applying on their behalf,” notes Davidson. “The youth has to be responsible for it.”

The largest of the programs, the Community Priorities gets the most requests. The Community Priorities Grants program is described as the Community Foundation’s oldest and largest granting initiative. Donors have funded it for over the past 54 years and supports “one-time costs of construction, renovation, or equipment purchases, in an effort to help improve an organization’s capacity.” 

While she is in unsure if the number of applications will increase or decrease the first two aforementioned grants, she fully believes to see a lot of requests of the Community Priorities. 

“We are expecting higher requests to the Community Priorities because so many charities have seen a loss of revenue due to fundraising and perhaps not as many donations,” explains Davidson. “Youth in Action we’re not sure. We anticipate we might see fewer because we tend to get a lot of applications from schools and we’re not sure if that will happen this year (with pandemic). They are in; they are out.” 

Of note, to apply to the Community Foundation, applicants must be a Canada Revenue Agency-recognized qualified donee, or apply in partnership with a qualified donee, including a municipality, school district, or charity. 

For more info, please visit their website at:

Ready for 2021

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