I am often asked if the National Council has grants available for local Vincentian use. The frequency of these requests has increased over the past year, as Conferences and Councils have endeavored to do more for people in need because of the pandemic and its consequences.
First, some perspective. As opposed to many “national” nonprofits, the bulk of the total worth of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul lies within its local Conferences, which is a good thing! As solidarity (or dues, if you prefer) rolls from Conference to District/Diocesan Councils and eventually to help fund the National and International Council, only a maximum of six-tenths of one percent of all Society revenues gets to the national office. By inference this means that 99.94 percent of the total stays local! This is preferred because our services are delivered very locally; therefore, as much of the resources to do so should stay there too.
However, as a national organization we look for way to leverage our collective strength. Sometimes this is in buying power, such as to get organizational discounts you can use to buy store supplies, background checks, hotel nights, and the other resources you use to serve our neighbors. The processes are based on total, expected national volumes. We also look at national program grants to develop new programs, training tools, communications, and staff management to help you learn and then operate a standardized program without your needing to reinvent the wheel each time.
In terms of actual grants, National Council has been blessed to work with some national partners – foundations and even individual donors – who want to make a national impact through our distribution of funds to our member Councils and Conferences. Examples include the recent Urban Farming grants, the Back2Work and IMMERSION programs, and of course the Friends of the Poor grants.
The Friends of the Poor (FOP) grants utilize dollars raised nationally to provide grants to Society Conferences for emergency needs of our friends and neighbors. A smaller but growing portion of the grants are used for larger Systemic Change programs operated by Councils as well as Conferences. These grants are limited to what we can raise each year and are distributed in four regional cycles annually plus a separate application period for Systemic Change.
A good deal of the FOP funds come from other Society groups! Some Councils and Conferences are blessed with more funds than they need today, or simply see the greater needs elsewhere, so they help us redistribute these blessings nationally. Other funds come from individuals who support the Society in other ways throughout the year. We raise several hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, but this is less than one-third of the funds requested through this grant program.
Over the next two weeks, we will conduct an email campaign specifically for the Friends of the Poor program. You, or someone in your Conference, may receive an email from us asking for your support. I ask you to discern on this request, consider what you have and what you need locally, and see if you can help our brother and sister members somewhere else in our country through the Friends of the Poor process. Vincentian volunteers decide how to distribute these $5,000 grants (sometimes more for Systemic Change) by region.
If you don’t receive such an email, of course you can still participate! Simply send funds to the National Council marked Friends of the Poor. You can further specify how much you want to go toward emergency needs and how much to Systemic Change grants. Thank you!
We will also send emails to past National Council contributors. Everyone will be directed to a unique online giving page designed for the FOP program. This helps assure that the funds will go exactly where designated.
This year, we started the awards process with what we have on hand but we will have an additional “catch-up” round for added grants in our fourth quarter. Watch for details on this in future e-Gazette issues and blog posts.
In this pandemic, and hopefully soon post-pandemic year, we know that many of our neighbors will come to us asking for more support with rent, food and other basic needs. By all of us working together as Vincentians who care about the poor everywhere, we can leverage our strength to get Friends of the Poor grants to the neediest areas through our fellow Conferences. Thanks for your consideration!
Yours in Christ,