Community Services Recovery Fund helps local organizations rebound and adapt

By Kimberley Falk

In a sector still recovering from the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Community Services Recovery Fund (CSRF) is helping community service organizations (CSOs) improve their sustainability. Delivered locally by the Ottawa Community Foundation (OCF) in concert with Community Foundations of Canada, United Way Centraide Canada, and the Canadian Red Cross, as well as backed by the Government of Canada, the CSRF represents a $400 million initiative designed to bolster the resilience of CSOs across the nation.

The OCF’s lead role in administering $2.3 million to Ottawa’s CSOs has resulted in grants to 36 organizations across different areas. The grants focused on modernizing operations— from enhancing contact management systems to streamlining communications strategies, the emphasis is on sustainable development and growth.

One of the CSRF’s guiding principles is a commitment to investing in systems and processes. This approach involves incorporating advanced technology and adopting strong organizational practices. Such investments are crucial in empowering CSOs to adapt and thrive in the evolving post-pandemic landscape.

As one of the CSRF-supported organizations, the Ottawa Tool Library (OTL) represents community solidarity and resilience. Volunteer-driven, the OTL is a community hub that allows members to borrow tools and attend workshops to teach individuals how to make, fix, and do things for themselves. Confronted with the challenge of relocating, Co-Founder Bettina Vollmerhausen describes their situation:

“We had to pack up over 3000 tools and a fully stocked wood shop, a significant task given our lack of resources for developing a fundraising strategy.” With support from CSRF, OTL has embarked on a two-year fundraising plan to expand its reach and ensure financial stability. After launching their first Giving Tuesday campaign, “We were able to actually subscribe to fundraising software transfer knowledge in terms of data. All of this has been helpful in leading us to the financial sustainability of our organization and thus for us to be able to offer this service as we do to the community.” Vollmerhausen shares.

The Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa (ATEH) also benefited from CSRF’s strategic infusion.  A coalition of people and organizations working to end homelessness through coordination, public education and advocacy, ATEH has utilized these funds to bridge collaborations, aiming to reform the housing and homelessness system for a more cohesive and responsive future.

For the Britannia Woods Community House, in association with the Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses, CSRF has been a lifeline to continuing its work. Through building shared IT systems, the grant has paved the way for technological advancements that are set to improve and streamline the way community houses operate and interact with their constituents.

Soul Space’s CSRF-supported project focuses on enhancing the organization’s partnership-building capacity to continue providing care and wellness opportunities.

“Soul Space Ottawa supports the wellbeing of frontline street health, harm reduction, community and social service workers in Ottawa by offering low-barrier retreats, workshops and cafes, in a collective and peer supported format,” says Danielle Rolfe, Coordinator of Soul Space Ottawa. “The funding will allow us to strengthen community partnerships, develop public awareness, and support fundraising efforts. Collectively, these activities will allow us to deliver more care to frontline workers, and to achieve long term sustainability.”

In some cases, adaptation means integrating two organizations that share a common purpose. The Ottawa Arts Council received a CSRF grant to facilitate merging with Arts Network Ottawa. This work includes building capacity and training for governance and leadership and implementing new roles and responsibilities. The aim of this optimization for two like-minded organizations is to better serve and address challenges in the local arts community.

The Community Services Recovery Fund, delivered in Ottawa by the OCF, demonstrates a strategic response to the pandemic’s impact on community organizations. By infusing funds into pivotal areas, CSRF addresses immediate needs and lays the groundwork for future-proofing CSOs, ensuring that they remain cornerstones of support for the communities they serve.

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