Michele Hillier, spokesperson for Chemainus First Nation, shares her unique and courageous story

"I was invited to assist with the fundraising for the completion of the Chemainus First Nation Community Centre. The building was started in 1986 and each community member had contributed a portion of their compensation money towards the project. Imagine the dismay of the people involved when the project was not completed because of a shortfall of funds. Thirteen years later engineers pronounced the Centre structurally sound and a community survey found that the number one priority was it's completion.

Between 30-40 letters were sent out to foundations across Canada and the US. Knowing the information in the BIG Online to be clear and concise we used it to search out names of organizations that might help with our project. I sent out small packages with photographs and a one-page letter. I also made sure, when submitting a proposal, that I made personal contact with someone at each government ministry and foundation - even to the point of sending them Christmas cards!!

Fundraising took approximately two years and when I think of my first proposals, I am amazed that any of them were funded - our cost estimates were inaccurate and letters of support insubstantial. The only thing we really had going for us was the strong support of the community and our commitment to completing the centre against all odds! One major challenge was that we could only complete the structure when we received all the money. In all our proposals we requested that the funders consider holding the money "in trust" until we were ready. This meant that we had to maintain regular contact with them and provide them with updates in order not to lose the funds.

The most anxious time was towards the end when we re-submitted a proposal for $200,000 to the Community Economic Adjustment Initiative. This particular board had deferred making a decision until we gave them more information. Although I was upset about the delay initially, I used the opportunity to gather more in-depth information that would benefit us substantially when the centre was up and running. Needless to say they eventually funded us - we heard just before Christmas so it was a glorious celebration for the entire community."

The following is a list of funders who contributed to this project:

Community Economic Adjustment Initiative, $200,000
Vancouver Foundation, $30,000
George Cedric Metcalfe Foundation, $7500
Weyerhaeuser Canada, $25,000
BC Millennium 2000, $50,000
Bullock Baur Engineering Consultants, $5,000
National Child Benefits (INAC), $36,417
Chemainus First Nation, $480,000
Coast Salish Employment and Training, $12,500
Industry Training Apprenticeship Commission (ITAC), $36,113
Personal Donations, $325

Michelle's Tips for Success:
I don't know if I have any words of wisdom to impart except to say that it is vital to keep positive and enthusiastic, almost passionate about such a big project ($850,000 in total). It is also crucial to keep in touch with your prospective funders, to give them what they need, to present good packages that read well and are visually stimulating.

Finally, it is essential to provide additional information in the form of appendices, to constantly revise proposals in order to make them current and dynamic - to ask for feedback when rejected, and to be grateful for even the smallest amount. We received $10 from someone at a time when the fundraising was at a low point - it still meant a lot!

Back to Success Stories | Top of Page