How do we choose who gets Rainbow Grants?

Rainbow Grants Co-chair Steven Solomon presents a cheque to Paperhouse Outreach Collective at the 2018 Rainbow Grants ceremony.

Every year Community One Foundation gives out tens of thousands of dollars in grants to LGBTTIQQ2S initiatives right across the GTA. You likely already knew that – as a writer for Community One, I mention it every chance I get. Did you see our summer newsletter? It’s there. New information booklet? Noted. How about on our homepage? Of course.

It’s a point of pride because the granting program has been a constant throughout our 38-year history. More than 1,100 projects and events have benefitted from those grants to date, but surprisingly enough most people we talk to are unaware of exactly how all of these Rainbow Grant recipients are selected.

This past April, I participated in the Rainbow Grants Allocations Committee, an annual tradition where members of Community One meet with a volunteer committee to debate the merits of each Rainbow Grant application, resulting in a final shortlist of recipients for the Board of Directors to approve. The whole process is run by our Rainbow Grants Co-chairs, and at least two board members are required to attend to ensure Community One’s mandate is respected, though this year three members took part. I was also interested in how this worked, so I signed up, honestly expecting a pretty dry, “just the facts, ma’am” sort of day. I was very wrong.

First of all, I didn’t expect to get so attached to the applicants I was assigned. We were each given four applications to present, leading into a committee-wide debate on the application’s merits, then members would vote ‘yes’, ‘maybe’ or ‘no’. Majority ‘yes’ votes get funding, majority ‘no’ votes do not, and the applications marked ‘maybe’ – ones with merit but room for improvement – are prioritized, the top ones receiving grants from the remaining money.

This system isn’t meant to deem certain projects as unworthy of support – if an application has made it to this stage, there is almost always a coherent goal and specified community to serve. It’s simply a method of prioritizing the dozens of applications we receive, focusing on ones that serve the most marginalized communities, provide services that are critically lacking, reach a broad intersection of communities or have few options for funding elsewhere.

To ensure a broad range of perspectives were represented, the committee consisted of volunteers from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, sexual orientations, professional backgrounds and an age range that spanned decades.

I was one of the first up, and felt ready to go; I thought my first application was a strong one. I marched up to the front of the room and confidently explained my thoughts on why they should vote ‘yes’ for funding.

As the group began discussions, points came up that hadn’t even crossed my mind – for example, in a case of unchecked white privilege, I completely overlooked the lack of people of colour included in the project. With Toronto being one of the most multicultural cities in the world, and for what this particular initiative had set out to do, such an oversight could potentially close off communities from sharing and feeling recognized in the experience. The committee respected the project’s goal, but this and several other criticisms took the application out of consideration. Despite that clear logic at work here – I agreed to the point of downgrading my own vote on it – it felt like I had let the applicant down. Everyone shared in having something turned down that day, and my sentiment was echoed by others.

However, there is a bit of a silver lining to this: applicants who do not get funding are given feedback that can be of great help when applying elsewhere or for a Rainbow Grant next year. One of my applicants had missed out on funding in previous years, but after improving in the areas that had been flagged, they were awarded a grant this time around.

My next applicant was so intersectional, creative and committed to underserved communities, the committee passed a ‘yes’ vote, and I felt like I hit a grand slam. The letdown of failing one applicant turned to a swell of pride seeing another get their funding. Don’t worry, I know not to pat my own back for this; it was, of course, the applicant’s tenacity, ingenuity and willingness to get the work done that earned them the funding. Regardless, it felt like a win.

This process continued through more than 30 applications that day, leading up to the final shortlist, which the Board of Directors unanimously approved. The final 19 recipients represent an incredible array of initiatives in health and social services, arts and culture, and the research/education/advocacy sectors.

There are programs for LGBTQ+ youth and others providing activities for seniors.

There is a film documenting the history of Black queer activism, and a queer-positive education program that equips Black youth to continue that activism.

There is a speaker series to help the very young determine their identity, and a workshop to help those at the end of their lives make preparations.

There are initiatives to highlight professional LGBTQ+ artists, and amateur art workshops to bring LGBTQ+ people together.

There is a program for newcomer parents to build better relationships with their LGBTQ+ children, and another to support parents who identify as LGBTQ+ themselves.

The recipient list says it all – there are many communities, but only one mission: to help create a strong, vibrant and diverse community by funding initiatives that enhance the LGBTTIQQ2S communities of the Greater Toronto Area. And in its 38th year, I’m glad to have taken part in it.



Parenting Teens Exchange – Springtide Resources

James Stewart Award (inaugural)

The Parenting Teens Exchange (PTE) is a biweekly group for newcomer caregivers whose teenagers might be LGBTTQQ+, to share experiences and learn to support healthy sexuality and gender development. The PTE creates a regular and trusting space for intercultural and multi-faith interactions and problem solving for and by newcomers.


Gender Journeys – Durham Community Health Centre

Gender Journeys is an 8 week program for people aged 13+. We provide information, support and meaningful connections for anyone thinking about their gender, transgender folks, and gender diverse folks. Gender Journeys promotes respect for a wide range of possibilities across the diverse gender continuum.  Gender Journeys is 8-weeks in duration.  Each week will cover a different topic. Our plan is to run one 8-weeks session in Ajax and one in Oshawa.


Aging with Pride – Sunshine Centres for Seniors

Through music, dance, story-telling, and visual-art making, LGBTQ seniors will share their histories, express their identities and experiences, and celebrate their lives. The project will also provide a series of health promotion workshops and educational tip sheets for LGBTQ seniors on topics of interest and concern to them.


Planning Together – End of Life Planning Canada

The project aims to facilitate planning for end of life with a group of older LGBTTIQQ2S adults. The sessions will provide practical information, opportunities for self-expression via writing/arts as a tool to engage this challenging topic, as well as building supportive and collaborative relationships between the participants.


Toronto Freedom School – Black Lives Matter

Freedom School Youth Training is being organized to train youth leaders to staff BLMTOFreedomSchool- a humanizing, self-affirming, LGBT positive educational opportunity for Black children in Ontario. BLMTOFreedomSchool is one of the only Black affirmative programs run by queer/trans Black community members and teaching Black liberation from an LGBT positive perspective.


Intersections: Trauma Informed Care, HIV, Mental Health and Knowledge Exchange – Casey House

The project is a two day training in trauma informed care for frontline health care and support service providers who provide care to the LGBTTIQQ2S community, who live with HIV/AIDS, with mental health, trauma and substance use concerns.  The project is a  two-day training session focusing on trauma informed care for frontline services providers who care for people within the LGBTTIQQ2S community who live with HIV and with mental health, trauma and substance related concerns.


Responding to Intersectional Oppression Experienced by BIPOC Trans Individuals – LOFT Community Services

LOFT wishes to undertake a research and evaluation project to explore the intersectionality of oppression experienced by people in the trans community, with a particular focus on the BIPOC community. The research will look at cultural issues (black, indigenous, people of colour, etc.) and gender issues (trans-male, trans-female, non-binary, etc.) to see how these issues intersect with each other, and with the generalized discrimination experienced by trans individuals, seeking to identify specific and general concerns. The second step will be to evaluate existing LOFT services to identify what is missing in service delivery and where the serve gaps are, and finally, to develop positive, proactive and affirming responses so that all members of the community feel equally and respectfully supported.


P2P Harm Reduction Kit Making Outreach – Breakaway Addiction Services

Pieces to Pathways (P2P) will hire a staff person for 10 hours per month to organize and host monthly harm reduction kit-making workshops, which any members of the population can attend.


PFLAG Mississauga Speakers Series – PFLAG Canada

Our project is a speaker’s series providing education and support for families/friends of transgender individuals, as well as the community at large. There will be three speakers from June 2018 to February 2019 including a Two-Spirit individual, a transgender physician practicing in St. Catharines, and potentially a legal expert.  We hope to change the perspective of attendees, open their minds to what it means to be transgender, and provide practical advice that they can pass on to their children.


Tell the Children the Truth – Phillip Pike

Tell the Children the Truth is a feature-length documentary about the history of Toronto’s Black queer community. Paying homage to creative and courageous individuals who, for almost forty years, have stepped up to create community where there was none, this ground-breaking documentary celebrates a traditionally marginalized, but vibrant community.


Draggin’ ASL to Pride (DATP) Revival – Ontario Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf

DATP (Draggin’ ASL To Pride) was an event hosted by ORAD annually for five years. Unfortunately, this tradition has been put on hold over the past five years. We are hoping to bring back this tradition to reunite the Deaf Queer & Trans communities through performance in American Sign Language.


STARS 100: A Space for Trans women’s Art, Recreation, and Social – Asian Community AIDS Services

STARS 100 is an arts-based project that fosters much-needed belongingness among East and Southeast Asian Trans women through arts, recreation, and social. STARS will hold an exhibition featuring 100 objects (photographs, art pieces, etc.) that will trace 10 Asian trans women’s life journey: stories of challenges, resilience, sisterhood, and love.


The Effeminates: A Queer Tale of Bloody Vengeance – Cahoots Theatre

Cahoots will support a one-week workshop of Raf Antonio’s newest play, THE EFFEMINATES: A QUEER TALE OF BLOODY VENGEANCE featuring queer performers of colour, actively engaging with Toronto’s drag and queer community by inviting various drag performers and other community members to the development process.


Pink Pine Project – Gay Asian Men 40+ Workshops – André Goh

Kyle Rae Award

A core team will plan and implement a series of 5 workshops and activities that promote healthy living and create strong community connections for over 100 gay East and Southeast Asian men age 40 and up in Toronto and the GTA.


Queer Asian Women+ – Louise Ngan

The Queer Asian Women (QAW+) plans to organize 1 arts and crafts social, and 3 educational workshops; queer parenting, anti-oppressive leadership skills development, and healthy relationships and consent. We seek to serve 60 queer Asian women and non-binary people in the GTA.


LGBTQ+ Youth Affirmative Mindfulness Project – Gio Iacono

This project aims to develop an affirmative mindfulness-based intervention (MBI) for LGBTTIQQ2S youth by: Introducing/practicing core mindfulness skills with LGBTTIQQ2S youth; investigating what mindfulness/affirmative approaches are useful in a MBI; and developing a culturally-adapted MBI for LGBTTIQQ2S youth to enhance mental health. A pilot evaluation will occur after this project.


Fool Love Full Length Album Marketing – Tessa Gooden

Fool Love is my first first length album project consisting of 7-10 original songs. It focuses on love and sexuality as a fluid individual. The marketing and promotion of this album is the main focus of my application.


2018 Zine Production and Exchange Program (ZIPE) – Paperhouse Outreach Collective

ZIPE will support 14 learners with workshops beginning in July 2018, with structured workshops to create practical introductions to various techniques relating to writing, image-making, zine-making, and self-publication, while prompting an open dialogue about identity throughout. The program will also connect youth participants with local zine-makers, community members, and art organizations, to ensure the continual support for their art practices once ZIPE has concluded.


Nuit Rose V: UnBound – Throbbing Rose Collective

Nuit Rose 2018 will launch with a group exhibition at Daniel’s Spectrum. Other exhibitions, presentations and performances will occur throughout the week, with venues including the 519 Community Centre, the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, Artscape Youngplace, the Gladstone Hotel, the Black Eagle, and Barbara Hall Park. Nuit Rose will also hold its annual Light Parade – which follows the historical route of Toronto’s first pride parades – starting at James Canning Gardens, continuing north, then down Church Street and ending at Barbara Hall Park. The light parade is open for all to join, and we encourage members from the public to bring their own light-emitting objects. The Nuit Rose light parade is a hallmark of the festival as an inclusive, accessible way for guests of all ages to engage with art and to celebrate community. As always, Nuit Rose main events will be free of charge and open to the public, taking place in a number of accessible Toronto institutions, streets and parks.


Click here to donate to the Community One Foundation’s Rainbow Grants program. This success story is an example of the important projects and services Community One Foundation has funded for more than 35 years.