Evaluation of the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund Summary

Evaluation of the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund Summary

Audit and Evaluation Division – Veterans Affairs Canada – June 2023

Evaluation results

Relevance and need

The evaluation found that there is a continued and ongoing demand for funding from organizations for initiatives targeting Veterans and their families’ well-being.  Demand for the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund (the Fund) is evident based on the number of applications submitted each year (between 98 and 155). During the evaluation scope period, 102 projects were approved for funding, with financial support going to 68 unique organizations.  A number of organizations have received funding more than once, and some have received funds continually since the inception of the Fund. To date, VAC has been able to fund 10% of project applications. The need for funding is expected to continue, with approximately 90% of fund recipients being not-for-profit organizations, who rely on external funding.

The Fund aligns at a high-level with government direction and departmental roles and responsibilities. Though Fund objectives are broad, and a variety of organizations are eligible to seek funding, eligibility is limited to finite projects and is not intended to support ongoing programming. As the Fund aims to building capacity in the non-profit sector, there may be an opportunity to reconsider the needs of applicant organizations. Additionally, in April 2020 VAC launched the VAC Research Funding Program. This program provides funding to similar organizations to undertake projects for similar purposes. There is an opportunity to re-confirm the intent of the Fund, and whether the current objectives remain appropriate.


The Fund has continued to grow and adjust since its inception in 2018. There is a Performance Information Profile in place with outcomes identified. Information in support of the performance indicators are being reported to some extent. The evaluation identifies that there are opportunities to enhance the Fund’s performance measurement reporting, through internal reporting efficiencies and documentation, as well as working with applicants/recipients to further develop project outcomes and the level of supporting information captured on file. Overall, there was a relatively small number of completed projects to review at the time of evaluation (35/102 of all funded projects). With few projects completed and inconsistent performance information available, it was difficult to make broad statements regarding the impact of individual projects. The Fund has been successful in contributing to numerous organizations targeting a variety of Veteran and well-being theme areas, such as homelessness, mental health, employment and Indigenous Veterans.

Efficiency and economy

Following recommendations from the 2021 VAC audit of the Fund, adjustments were introduced to enhance the rigour of the application assessment process and monitoring of ongoing projects. As the Fund continues to grow and evolve, the evaluation notes that there are additional areas to consider enhancing, such as guidance documents, internal reporting and project reporting protocols. Increased rigour in the assessment and monitoring of projects requires effort. The Fund currently has four full-time staff (including one manager and one temporary analyst). The effort required to support each application round of 100 plus applications and adequately monitor 60 or more ongoing projects is most likely beyond the capacity of the current permanent staffing complement of two analysts.

The Fund has only operated one year within its annual core funding ($3 million dollars), and each year afterwards has been temporarily supplemented from within the department or through Budget 2021 ($15 million from 2021-22 through 2023-24). The Fund has continually spent the full budget allotment each year, and committed funds to future budgets. This approach impacts the amount of funding available to be awarded to projects in future years. At this juncture, it would be timely for the department to consider if continuing with the Fund’s current intent and objectives are feasible based on the level of core funds available, or if any modifications to intent/objectives and/or core funding levels should occur.

Recommendation Management response and action plan

Recommendation #1:

It is recommended that the Assistant Deputy Minister of Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance determine if changes are needed to the intent and objectives of the Fund to align with its evolution and departmental priorities. Where appropriate, take the necessary steps to:

  1. Modify the stated objectives of the Fund; and
  2. Seek opportunities to increase core funding levels and/or staffing complement to address the Fund objectives and maintain the cumulative workload.

The Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund was originally established with the intent to fill a gap in supporting innovation and research in Veteran health and well-being. There have now been a number of application rounds, providing an additional baseline of information relating to the types of projects funded, as well as the needs from organizations focusing on Veteran and family well-being. In an effort to ensure continued alignment with departmental priorities and needs, VAC will assess if modifications to the intent and the objectives of the Fund are required, and take any subsequent steps to seek necessary approvals to modify program documents and associated resource requests.

Recommendation #2:

It is recommended that the Director General Policy and Research share guidance with funding applicants/recipients regarding:

  1. the development of measurable project outcomes; and
  2. suggested information that would be beneficial to support progress towards achieving project outcomes.

The Policy and Research Division (PRD) has begun a review of the current Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund (VFWF) application form and is identifying options to incorporate an additional project management component in the upcoming 2023-24 funding cycle. To ensure applicants have sufficient project planning guidance to develop measurable project outcomes, VAC will include a more structured project planning section in the application as well as an enhanced application guide to support the application. The applicant guide will expand on project planning components including project objectives, activities, planned outcomes, and outcome measures. PRD will also provide VFWF staff with project support tools to ensure recipients are equipped to measure and achieve intended project outcomes.

Recommendation #3:

It is recommended that the Director General Policy and Research enhance Fund data tracking with the intention to maximize internal reporting efficiencies, and support performance measurement and program decision making.

Since its inception in 2018, the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund has made continuous improvements to application assessment processes and project reporting requirements. As the Fund continues to mature, VAC will place additional focus on enhancing the Fund’s internal reporting capacity to ensure that the necessary information is available to support performance measurement, internal reporting requirements, and program decision making.

Program description

  • The Fund provides financial support to a variety of organizations (non-profit, for profit, research and education institutions, indigenous organizations and public health and social services institutions) that conduct research, develop and/or implement innovative programs for Veterans and their families well-being.
  • The Fund was created in 2018 to fill a perceived gap in supporting innovation and research for Veteran and family health and well-being. VAC regularly received requests from organizations seeking funding for such initiatives, but the department had no mechanism to contribute financially prior to the Fund being established.
  • The Fund is structured to provide both grants and contributions. Approved grant projects can receive up to $500,000 per fiscal year for a maximum of three years and approved contribution projects can receive up to $1 million per fiscal year for a maximum of five years.
  • The Fund is allocated $3 million annually. The Fund received additional supplementary funds since 2019-20, including $15 million over three years through Budget 2021.
  • Between 2018-19 and 2021-22 VAC received 509 project applications requesting over $350 million. In the same period, 102 projects were approved and $36.6 million of program funding committed to the various initiatives.
  • Management of the Fund has shifted throughout the department, and currently resides within the Research Directorate.

About the evaluation

Scope and methodology

  • Conducted in accordance with the directive and standards specified in Treasury Board of Canada’s 2016 Policy on Results and VAC’s 2022-23 to 2026-27 Departmental Evaluation plan.
  • Covers the time frame from April 2018 to March 2022.
  • Conducted between April 2022 and March 2023.
  • Multiple lines of evidence were used including document reviews, data analysis, observations, file reviews, and key informant interviews.
  • Purpose of the evaluation was to ensure the Fund is relevant and meeting needs, while determining if there are opportunities to improve effectiveness or efficiency. It is anticipated that evaluation results will support the Research Directorate in managing the Fund and future decision making.
  • The evaluation placed less emphasis on the efficiency of the Fund, as staff continue to implement changes resulting from the 2021 VAC Audit.

Constraints and limitations

  • The evaluation team was able to visit select Fund recipients in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and then conducted virtual interviews with other organizations, as scheduling logistics and air travel as well as COVID-19 continued to provide risks and challenges with travel.
  • Reporting for the Fund is primarily manual in nature. Throughout the evaluation, the team noted a lack of documented statistical information. Where possible, the information was created by the program area. The evaluation team noted discrepancies in some instances, which were highlighted with the program area.
  • There was an inconsistent level of performance information available to fully assess Fund success. There was a limited set of completed project results. Many projects are multi-year projects, with only one third of projects considered completed. The nature of the funding program (research and innovation) also presented challenges in defining and measuring ‘success’ (e.g., what is considered innovative/how to measure success of innovation). To mitigate this challenge, the evaluation looked at multiple information sources (e.g., file review, interviews with various departmental staff and funding recipients, and document review). Where available, the evaluation team noted any short-term, observable indications of success.
  • Gender based analysis (GBA+) was incorporated into the evaluation based on overarching project theme.
  • The Fund is still maturing and has seen many changes in funding levels, processes, and management since its inception in 2018. This was taken into consideration when evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of the Fund to date.
  • The VAC Research Funding Program was launched by the department in April. This new program is separate from the Veteran and Family Well-Being Fund and was not considered in scope for this evaluation. Some findings in this evaluation may be linked or impact the Research Funding Program, as there are some similarities among the two funding programs.

Evaluation report