April 1, 2022
Dear Grantees and Stakeholders,
RE: ANNUAL FUNDING GUIDELINE
After two full years of constraint and restraint resulting from the pandemic, we approach the coming year with more optimism. While it is not completely behind us, our collective capacity to deal with the coronavirus and related fallout has improved immensely.
It will be some time yet before Albertans can return to what we knew as “normal”, as we continue the recovery from the pandemic and face new challenges including higher inflation and threats to our democratic institutions. But there is hope in the resiliency evidenced in our sector over the last two years.
As we move forward to meet these challenges, the Alberta Law Foundation is committed to supporting organizations that advance the rule of law and access to justice for individuals who continue to struggle with issues that have persisted since before the pandemic, and who are affected by more recent developments in Alberta and in the world.
We will continue our focus on the three goals of our current strategic plan:
- Invest in sustainable and effective initiatives that have a demonstrable impact for Albertans navigating the justice system in Alberta.
- Build sector capacity by being a resource and community convener in the justice sector.
- Demonstrate leadership through a culture of inclusivity, communication and collaboration.
In the coming year, we will be reaching out to stakeholders to gather updated information on current and continuing needs in the justice sector and will work with the community to support the development of innovative solutions to address the needs in today’s environment. Many of the lessons learned during the pandemic have illuminated new ways of approaching our work in access to justice and we will continue to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and strategies that show promise of success.
Demonstrating success, or promise of success, of strategies to meet the needs in our sector will require a concerted effort to articulate the intended outcomes of a given strategy and a clear outline of the process that will be used to measure success. Over the last several years, the Foundation has emphasized evaluation and has encouraged and supported applicants in developing an evaluation process for their respective programs and projects. We recognize that each organization may currently be in a different place on the path of developing or refining their evaluation processes. In the coming year, applications for funding will be expected to include a plan for evaluation to demonstrate the applicant’s commitment to undertake this work and begin implementation where possible. The Foundation also recognizes that resources and expertise are needed for this work and is prepared to support those efforts through targeted funding and collaborative learning opportunities like Bridging the Gaps sessions, as well as one-on-one support from the Grants Team.
Financial Outlook for 2022-23
The Foundation recognizes the financial pressures that all Albertans have faced in recent years, and we appreciate the impact that these pressures have had on programs and people involved in the justice sector. As we move through the continuing recovery from the pandemic, as our public health restrictions are eased, it is our hope that the justice sector can once again offer full services, in person, and resume the level of activity we enjoyed before the pandemic.
The recent economic growth experienced in Alberta and the rest of the country has been a welcome development but brings with it the pressures of inflation and volatility. Interest rates have started to rise and are expected to continue rising through the next year or two, eventually reaching pre-pandemic levels. Because the Foundation’s revenue is dependent on interest paid on lawyers’ pooled trust accounts in Alberta, the increase in economic growth and the rise in interest rates should translate into increased revenue for the Foundation. Until we see how far rates will rise, and the effect that higher interest rates will have on economic growth, it is difficult to predict at what point in time the Foundation will recover the ground that was lost over the last two years and regain the financial capacity it had in 2019.
The restraint shown in grant requests and some difficult funding decisions made over the last two years has enabled the Foundation to reduce its total grants to a level $2 million less than the amount allocated in 2019-20. However, revenue from interest on lawyers’ pooled trust accounts in each of the last two years has been over $20 million less than the level in 2019-20. As a result, the Foundation has drawn heavily on reserves to meet its grant commitments and its funding for Legal Aid Alberta.
We approach the coming year with cautious optimism for revenue growth. This should enable the Foundation to modestly increase its total level of grants for existing programs and some new initiatives in 2022-23. While we do not expect the level of restraint that has been required in recent years, requests for increased or new funding will still need to be supported by an assessment of needs in the area and concrete plans to achieve outputs and to evaluate outcomes consistent with the additional funding.
The Foundation is examining its internal policies and practices to ensure that our grant-making program is accessible and responsive to the needs of diverse individuals and communities. There is much we can learn from the organizations we fund, from other organizations operating in the human services sector, and especially from the people they serve. By listening to one another and sharing our journeys, our successes and our challenges, together we can move closer to accessible justice for all Albertans.
Stephanie Dobson, Chair
On behalf of the Alberta Law Foundation Board of Directors