Throughout the program, the OBWB has sought feedback from recipients about strengths and points to improve in the granting process. Feedback has consistently been that the process is clear, and significantly less arduous than other grant programs. Our application is a simple four-page form. Our required mid-point report is two-pages and our final report is three pages. The only other required form is the contribution agreement, which simply requires signatures. The simplicity of the process is a major benefit to grant applicants since it saves staff or volunteer time, in both the application and through the reporting process.
Because the grant program serves the Okanagan and is administered by the OBWB, grantees can call or come into the office to directly speak with OBWB staff. Staff routinely receives calls from interested applicants and grantees, seeking more information about their project, looking for opportunities to collaborate, or seeking support to apply for funding through other agencies. Because the process is local, grantees often collaborate with other local governments, agencies or non-profits. This collaboration is not only a benefit of the program, but leads to greater efficiency and reduced costs. Each grantee must show that their project will benefit the basin as a whole, either directly, or as a pilot method that can be shared with others.
The WCQI program is remarkably flexible, as shown through our payment options, which allow a grantee to choose their payment schedule, even allowing a 25% advance to begin the project where needed. Changes to project schedules are also relatively flexible, on the principle that it is more important to have a project completed, than complete on time. Given the nature of the projects, they can sometimes be delayed by poor or unpredictable weather conditions, necessitating an extension. Other scheduling difficulties, such as securing alternate sources of funding, can also be considered for extensions. This flexibility has meant that the WCQI projects have an incredibly high level of success, with grantees largely being able to achieve their original project scope without change.
Leverage to bring money into the Okanagan:
Another benefit to the program is that grantees leverage WCQI funds to gain other funding. Grant programs often require prior confirmed funding through other organizations in order to consider a project. OBWB staff routinely provides letters of support for our grantees to leverage WCQI funding through other agencies. Many of our grantees apply for multiple grants from many agencies, often from outside the Okanagan. An example is the Friends of Summerland Ornamental Gardens, who in 2012 received funds from Environment Canada, the Real Estate Foundation of BC, the Vancouver Foundation, the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, and the TD Friends of the Environment Fund. In that example, a WCQI grant for $25,000 was part of a budget that brought another $68,872 from outside the valley, and $7,100 from another Okanagan Valley funder.
Water Conservation and Quality Improvement
Of course, the greatest benefit of the program is that it achieves its goal of enhancing water conservation and quality improvement in the Okanagan valley. Through local governments, this program provides an incentive to prioritize water-related projects, as well as assisting smaller local governments to meet their water quality and supply goals. Among irrigation districts, this program allows them to meet ever increasing regulatory challenges to protect water sources and support delivery of clean and sufficient drinking water to their ratepayers. Through non-profits, this program increases awareness of the need to conserve and protect our water, and enhances the public understanding of our basin, often through projects that local governments and water districts could not facilitate.