How to Write the Program Description

Section 4.1 of the Guidelines says that program eligibility is measured on four points: has operated for 12 months, demonstrates community benefit, is accessible and inclusive, and has a sustainability plan. Focus the Program Description on these four points. At the end, add a fifth point about how the funds will be used – the Describe in Detail section of the Application where you’ll talk about key things that you see coming up in the next year – and summarize your financial ask. The Analysts read several hundred applications per year and many each day. Keep your program description tight and focussed to the four items stated in the Guidelines.

1. Pre-Amble – The program must have been operating for a minimum of 12 months.

Use this section to write a paragraph or two. Talk some about the background to the program. In the Application it will ask how long the program has operated, in years and months. Give some information about what happened in the last twelve months and talk a bit about what stood out in the year, maybe things that need to be addressed going forward or trends that are showing which may have an impact on future direction. Make sure you focus on the Program and not on the Organization. Keep it short but its here too that you might tell the history, purpose or vision of the Program.

Avoid talking about what you are going to do and about the broader vision and activities of your Organization. Focus on what you have been doing and in a foreshadowing kind of way, on what is noteworthy in the last year.

2. Community Benefit – Convey the Impact of the Work that You Do.

Even if this is a first application, the program has history of at least 12 months. Reflect on the work you’ve done in your program description. If you’ve already been receiving Gaming funding, tell them what happened in comparison to what you proposed. At this stage you’ve been operating for 12-24 months or more and you have some data that you can share and which demonstrates what you’re doing and who you are serving. Use this section to reflect on the services provided and programming delivered. Talk about what happened in the last twelve months. Convey Impact. Gaming wants to see your numbers; the outputs of the program. How many of what did you do and how often; with whom; where? Use a table or a pie chart or a bar graph to give a visual; include a photo or a link Compare year over year or provide a three or five year overview if you can. If you haven’t collected information in this way, talk about what you know. Sit down with your people and get some basic information to include. After that, start to collect information this year – easy stuff; stuff that makes sense to you, your organization and the program. The data you collect doesn’t need to be complex and it ought to be relevant for the organization.

Highlight trends or the things you are noticing – growth, shifts in clientele or services, shifts in demand or emerging items. Talk about some of the successes, provide anecdotal highlights of key outcomes. Include, where you can, quotes from people affected – sprinkle these throughout your Description. Often times you’ll have a card or an email where a participant talks about how the Program affected them or their family. Clip from these and insert them in the text to prove your statements or add them as a pull out text box to draw the reader to the key points.

3. Accessible and Inclusive – Grant recipients and their programming needs to reflect Provincial values.

At minimum, this section is your diversity statement. The core issue is that the Province won’t fund an organization that doesn’t reflect the values of the Province of BC.

Gaming expects that programming that is funded with a Gaming Grant is as open and inclusive as possible but they also don’t expect the organization to change its programming. They do expect that the programming is accessible and without discrimination against any group, so for instance if you are Big Sisters you don’t have to serve boys too but you do need to ensure that you serve girls without barriers, likewise if you are a senior’s centre, it’s not that you need to serve young or middle age people, but you need to be open to all seniors. Talk about the accommodations that you make to be inclusive – physical accessibility, cultural outreach, etc.

In many cases organizations and programs are particularly oriented around these values and that makes this section an important place to talk about what you do. If you are the White Cane society then you will talk at some length about creating accessibility for people with a lending library, adaptive equipment, public awareness campaigns or social gatherings, emotional supports for people, referral services or community partnerships.

4. Sustainability

Each program needs to have a minimum of 25% funding from sources other than the federal or provincial government. Appendix IV has a partial list of what is included as provincial and federal funding. These are government administered programs, grants or donations from crown corporations and money from school districts or health authorities. Cities, towns, regional districts and indigenous governments, for the sake of this grant, count as local or community money.

If you have your own money, ie fundraising money, include it here too. Talk about the raffle, golf tournament or major gifts program that you have and the donors that are contributing to the program. This shows up as revenue in the income statement and budget. The time that you invest to raise that money doesn’t count toward the volunteer time – that time got converted into the cash from the activity. The organization can invest some or all of that cash into the program, alongside the money requested from Gaming and other sources.

Include your volunteers here. Talk about how many volunteers you have, how much time they invest and the kinds of work that they do in the program. Volunteers can be valued at up to $20/hour. If you pay your staff less, for the same job, you may choose to value your volunteers at the same rate, for the same job. If you decide to do that, make sure you calculate the full cost of your staff, ie add the mandatory employment related costs plus any other benefits and vacation pay that is included, so you have an accurate value – not just the rack rate of $X per hour. If your volunteer does a different job, ie has a separate job description, then you could consider valuing them at a different/higher rate.

New applications need to have letters of support but its a helpful idea to collect letters and notes of support on an ongoing basis. The strongest letters come from other supporters, for example:

Another funder, a local business supporter or a donor or another organization that funds the program. Their letter might say something like, “Of all the people that ask for my time or money, I choose this organization because I think it best reflects my values, best reflects the values of my customers and in my observation has an impact that I appreciate.”
A participant, a parent or a front line beneficiary of the program. Their letter might talk about how they feel, how the program has changed their life, feelings or opportunities; about their first-hand experience with the program.
A volunteer who talks about the returns they see from volunteering in this program, how it affects them and why they choose this program to invest their volunteer time; about their observations about the program’s impact on the community and its participants.
All of these are other investors and beneficiaries that are talking directly to Gaming about why they invest and how they are affected – and inviting Gaming to invest along with them.

This section isn’t about proving that you won’t need money one day, it is about who else in your neighbourhood is involved in your program and organization, your networks and other funders that help ensure that your program will have lasting impact.

5. Describe in Detail
On the Application form there is a section that immediately follows the Program Description and its not mentioned in the Guidelines or training. It asks that you provide summary details about how the funds will be used. The section isn’t meant to have a complex answer and this is the place where the Analyst goes for a quick reminder of your request. In short, they want a list – we want $X and we’re going to spend $Y on this and $Z on that and two more items – short and simple, for example, requesting $15,000 and spending $8,000 on rent, $2,000 on program liability insurance with $4000 for staffing and $1000 for program materials.

This section is the place to begin to talk about the year going forward. As your story unfolded – the last 12 months of operation, the benefits to community, accessible and inclusive and sustainable – it revealed what is needed for a successful next year. If you were reporting growth and your stats show “measured un-met demand”, then in the next year, you’re going to talk about how to respond. It may be that you have a case for additional funding and you’re going to talk about that here. Or you may need to emphasize certain things in this year’s work – in communications, or systems, or shifting some activities in order to respond to participant requests or changing interests.

The Pre-amble in part one will set up the story by talking about the trends, highlights and observations from the last year. Community Benefit will prove your case, not only by talking about the numbers but these will also show where there is notable shift – in growth or evolution of your program and clientele. Accessible and Inclusive may add to the story but they demonstrate your organization’s values and efforts to reach and be relevant to people in your community. Sustainability is the core of your case for support because it talks about your other partners and investors – those others who believe in your programming who have been convinced by your story. Describe in Detail piece is, like Dragnet would say, “Just the facts”…but also opens the door to next year’s work.