Full Circle

Meet Bobbie O’Connor, member of ECF’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Sub-Committee

The first time Bobbie O’Connor connected with Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF), he was hoping for funding.

“I was writing a grant for an organization I worked with — I was on the asking side of things,” he laughs. “That’s how I came to learn about ECF.”

The introduction opened his eyes to the vast supports the Foundation offers. It impressed him so much, he got involved: O’Connor began volunteering with ECF as a member of its Arts, Culture and Heritage Sub-Committee in 2019.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity to give back,” he notes.

O’Connor is no stranger to the benefits that non-profits bring to a community, as well as the struggles they can face, as he’s worked in the charitable sector for 15 years. Volunteering his time with  ECF’s Sub-Committee has given him a sense of the deeper issues that can affect the arts, culture and heritage sectors in Edmonton, as well as the creative new ideas coming forward.

On the committee, O’Connor helps assess the applications the organization receives and determine how its funding should be allocated. Discussing the proposals with the other committee members — each with different backgrounds and areas of expertise — is something he finds immensely rewarding.

“When you read all of these grants at once, it highlights patterns for you that you might not see day-to-day as easily,” he says. “It’s cool to see that innovation coming through on those pages, of how people are addressing different gaps, wanting to solve problems or bring spaces to life.”

One measure of a successful ECF application, he notes, is directly answering questions that the Foundation asks as part of the application process. He encourages applicants to pick up the phone if they have any questions about what the Foundation is asking.

“The thing I love about ECF is they really want to support an agency whether or not they’re granted the money,” he says. “Even if it’s in providing really strong, detailed feedback on how they could improve.”

Recently, O’Connor and his wife — who also works in the non-profit sector — went one step further and created their own ECF family fund, looking to help address issues of marginalization in the arts. He once thought that creating a fund was an opportunity reserved for those of a higher -income bracket.

“Once we actually learned that that wasn’t the case — that we could pledge it out over time — it was a game-changer,” he says. “We didn’t have to make tough choices about, ‘Do we stop giving to this charity so that we can build up this fund for the future?’ We could do both at the same time.”