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The Journey from Starting an NGO to Receiving Funding


S.H.A.D.E. (Safe Housing And Directed Empowerment) Inc. is an NGO (non-profit charity) located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Our vision is to empower immigrant and refugee women, and any of their children, impacted by woman abuse / gender-based violence and / or family violence to rebuild their lives and transition from a place of victimization to a place of confidence, healing, stability, and resiliency. Our mandate to accomplish this is through safe housing, psychosocial programming, and practical supports.


One of the primary challenges for a new NGO with no track record of funding or service delivery is getting your first grant. Grant writing and fundraising go hand-in-hand with a grassroots initiative such as ours.


1. Key to building a solid foundation for our organization has been to network, attend key public events, connect with people and learn about their organizations and businesses, and spread the word about our vision at every opportunity. Our first grant came from attending another charitable non-profit’s fundraiser and answering questions posed by a nearby guest. This woman happened to be a person of influence who invited me to connect with her to write a grant for United Way Winnipeg’s Organizational Development Grant. That contact led to receiving SHADE’s first grant of $5,000. This also led to our first milestone, when we received charitable status February 2017, backdated to June 2016. Having charitable status, is more often than not, the gateway to eligibility in applying for grants. Since there is a small volunteer Board, the majority of grant writing tasks fall to the founder.


Here are some principles I’ve found to be useful:

  • Be on the alert for grants (searching online, word-of-mouth, similar organizations funding streams).

  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst; there will be many unsuccessful grant applications.

  • Keep writing grants. Do not give up!

An important part of building a profile within the community your organization desires to serve is actually knowing what services and resources community stakeholders consider important and / or missing. Fill a gap. In-between writing grants, develop core programming and run it successfully (often through volunteer hours). Our MIRRORS workshop program exemplifies this principle.

  • Eventually, S.H.A.D.E. began winning small grants ($500, $1,300, $2,400, $5,000, $19,765, $31,000, $27,631.).

  • Start asking for higher amounts and multi-year grants.

  • Write grants to fit your mandate rather than trying to fit your mandate to suit a specific grant. While you may need to remain flexible in programming, never lose sight of your core mandate.

  • Deliver on the outcomes you specify in your grants. Doing so builds a proven track record with your community. Word travels fast.

  • Keep accurate records. Take the time to institutionalize your recordkeeping procedures (you may begin with customized Excel or Word forums (advanced software comes later).

  • Submit final reports on time.

  • Stay connected with your funders, especially during a pandemic such as COVID-19, when some funding may need to be re-allocated or timing may need to be extended.

This past spring of 2021, S.H.A.D.E. promoted a key necklace for Mother’s Day. Funds raised from the sale of these necklaces were designated to our safe housing facility fund. Currently, we are preparing for SHADE’s second annual 5K Run / Walk fundraiser, to be followed by a book launch in November. We hope you will check us out on our website @ www.shadewinnipeg.org, or at https://www.facebook.com/ShadeincWinnipeg or https://www.instagram.com/shadewinnipeg/.


Continue to seek and ask because you believe in a cause bigger than yourselves that will make a phenomenal difference in other people’s lives – in S.H.A.D.E.’s case, this means vulnerable women and their children who are victim-survivors of gender-based violence. Progress comes from never giving up. There is always a lot of work taking place behind the scenes that not many know about or witness. Because we continue to write grants, our vision has begun to take shape over the past year and a half.


Because our amazing Board keeps coming up with creative ways to fundraise, we are able to offer new services. Women we interact with have begun to heal, become confident, strong, and demonstrate resilience. We are having generational impact. This warms my heart.


We are at the place where we desire the opportunity to transition from being able to offer contractual positions to operational programming with the ability to hire employees who will offer seamless wrap-around services to our clients. We need funding for this to become reality.

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