THE Community Grants program, whereby $280,000 is offered each year by the South Gippsland Shire Council to seed millions of dollars’ worth of community projects, is one of the most popular programs delivered by the shire.

But it’s not perfect.

For example, there’s a high number of “unsubmitted applications”, that is applications that are started by community groups through the SmartyGrants portal but which never make it to the shire by the closing date.

And, who knew, why the program is heavily oversubscribed, with many worthy projects missing out each year, the program has only expended its maximum allocation twice, between 2016/17 FY to 2020/21 FY.

Reasons given for not distributing the grant allocation budget were that grant applications were either not eligible or were not assessed at a high enough standard.

There’s also been a downward trend in the number of applications being made, smaller communities aren’t accessing the grants, and little to indicate whether projects align with overall community needs and council’s strategic direction.

So, the shire council called for an independent external evaluation of the program and, at last week’s meeting, the administrators received the program and adopted all of its recommendations.

As a result, community groups which have already applied in the past will notice a change of approach and emphasis and those that may not have applied before will receive more information and encouragement to get involved.

But it’s a case of use it well, or lose it.

“As we are all well aware, the Community Grants program plays a vital role in this shire. It is an important part of the fabric of the community, and plays a significant role in strengthening those communities, and enabling those enabling the community to thrive and flourish,” said administrator Rick Brown last week.

“And that’s been particularly evident over the last 12 to 18 months in which the role of Community Grants program has been as important as ever.

“Notwithstanding the effectiveness of the current program, no program is perfect and from time to time, all programs benefit from review, oversight and analysis. And that is what has happened with respect to the Community Grants program.”

You can read the 77-page Community Grants evaluation report on the shire’s website under the ‘Council meetings’ tab.