CiRS loses one-third of its funding for programs

Staff with the Red Deer-based Community Information & Referral Society (CiRS) have announced that one-third of their funding has been cut.

Funding from Family & Community Support Services (FCSS) for two ‘cornerstone programs’ offered by CiRS Information and Volunteer Services won’t continue past this year.

CiRS delivers services to help nonprofit and community service organizations leverage their resources, enhance their skills, and deliver services.

The FCSS decision to award funding to other organizations affects CiRS’ volunteer services and information and referral services – programs that make up about one-third of CiRS’ total annual budget.

Without FCSS and community support, sustaining these programs in their current form will be difficult, said David Laing, chair of the CiRS board of directors.

“The competition for grants is always fierce, but it’s even more so during tough economic times, when every dollar counts,” said Laing. “While we’re disappointed CiRS was not awarded funding, we understand that many other worthy organizations will have an opportunity to provide programs because of FCSS’s grants.”

Scott Cameron, social planning manager with the City of Red Deer, said that the process for deciding where the funding ultimately goes is extremely thorough and goes through a number of stages as the FCSS board studies financial requests.

He also said they have to keep in mind how the requesting organization fits with the mandate of FCSS, which is to a large degree about prevention.

He couldn’t comment on specifics about the decision regarding CiRS as a FCSS board meeting was planned for last night (past publication deadline).

Cameron said that the process includes FCSS board members making their own assessments as well, which then form a cumulative score and then it’s all forwarded to the finance committee.

Organizations are ranked, and a line is essentially drawn where funding runs out. Of course, consideration is still given to organizations that don’t make it into that successful group, he said.

“It’s a very comprehensive process,” he said. “It also comes down to there being more requests than dollars.”

CiRS’ board of directors has not yet determined how this reduced funding will impact the organization or its services, said Laing. But the board is committed to having a plan in place by September.

“Right now, we’re faced with the challenge of evaluating our programs and services over the coming months to ensure they align with our new financial reality,” said Laing. “Building a sustainable organization that offers services of benefit to our community will be our primary goal over the next three months.”

As part of its planning process, CiRS, which was established in 1992, will be engaging members of the community in a dialogue about the role of volunteer services, information and referral services, and the community village in Central Alberta.

Meanwhile, Laing said he is confident in his 11-member board which he describes as an “amazing group” of people who are eager to find ways to keep CiRS moving forward.

“We really believe in the services we provide, and this is an opportunity to do that differently. I have no idea, however, what that will look like. But we are keen to keep delivering the services we’ve been delivering.”

Laing said it’s likely that volunteer and non-profit organizations are going to have to work together all the more in terms of service delivery in the years ahead in light of tighter economic times.

“CiRS is the hub that links people to the nonprofit sector in Central Alberta; without these services, that link will be gone – making it even more important that we engage our community in this process,” said Laing. “We’re confident, though, that with support from our partners and the community, we can build a stronger CiRS and continue to link people, places, and knowledge to strengthen the nonprofit sector.”