"It’s the biggest thing in the nonprofit sector in the last three decades, the biggest thing since the Voluntary Initiative in the 90’s.”
I’m on the phone with Russ Dahms, Executive Director the ECVO and ABNN Exploration Committee Member, as he talks about the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector (CSSB) report, Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector, which was released in June.
"It’s a historic point for the sector in Canada. A brilliant report, with meaningful recommendations.” Then Russ pauses, seeming apprehensive, almost troubled, “The question is, how will we move forward and what will it take to actually adopt the recommendations?”
Report Tackles the Big Issues of our Sector
In early 2018, a Senate Special Committee was formed to explore the issues and constraints that limit the charitable sector. They were tasked with looking at the challenges such as outdated policy and lack of coordinated support, and explore what needs to change so that the federal government can better enable charities and nonprofits to deliver social programs and address the complex issues facing Canadian communities.
The report outlines 42 recommendations to help modernize and create meaningful change to the sector. Recommendations span a number of issues, including workforce and volunteering, funding structures, innovation support, taxes and regulations. It acknowledged that the sector needs meaningful law and policy reform, as well as a renewed relationship with the federal government.
Navigating the Path Forward
With 190-pages covering fourty-two recommendation, which fall under at least eight government department/agencies, the key questions is now what and who? The sector is worried (and not without reason) that the volume of recommendations will make it difficult to sort through and act on. Previous modernization efforts have fallen short and there is question as to whether there is ample desire to truly make some changes. The other risk is the federal election – no matter which government comes into power there is the possibility that the report will get lost in changing political priorities.
The good news is that a permanent Advisory Committee has been announced. This committee has a big task – sorting through the recommendations, understanding the depth of the issues, getting consensus across the sector and government, and hopefully, making meaningful, positive changes.
Arguably, one of the most difficult tasks will be prioritizing. Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada and Committee Sector Co-chair, describes the task at a hand, “To realize the promise of this report, sector leaders are going to need to find a balance between advocating for their individual organization’s interests and supporting a common set of priorities. Hopefully, this will be seen as a complementary effort, not an ‘either/or’ approach.”
What Our Organizations Can Do Today
The most important thing our sector needs to do right now is ensure that this report does not get forgotten.
Senator Omidvar has shared an Open Letter asking federal party leaders and candidates to commit to implement the report recommendations. We encourage all Alberta nonprofits to show their support by signing the open letter (it is very simple and takes less than a minute).
We also hope you will help us spread this important message more broadly by sharing this through your network and encouraging peer organizations to sign. You can also share Senator Omidvar’s social media message using the hashtag #votecharitably.
Continuing the Discussion
No official forums have yet been developed to share feedback, but that doesn’t mean our sector can’t or shouldn’t start having discussions. We encourage nonprofits to read the report, read commentary and start forming and opinions. Some perspectives out there include:
§ Article from The Philanthropist
§ Imagine Canada Highlight Reel
§ Report from Mowat NFP
§ Top Six Takeaways for Fundraisers
§ Recommendations that Support Affordable Housing
§ Exploring the Report from Charity Village
Share your ideas and perspective with colleagues or write an email to the ACCS secretariat. Tell us what you think by posting on our Facebook forum page and we will share your thoughts with Imagine Canada.
“It’s going to be up to us as a sector to keep the momentum going,” says Russ. “We need to tell the government that this is important and implementing the recommendations will make a monumental difference in our ability to do our work, and ultimately, help Canadian communities be healthier, stronger and more resilient.”
Sector Recommendations that Align with ABNN Efforts
There are a number of Senate recommendations that support issues ABNN has identified as strategic areas of action:
Sector Pension Plan
Nonprofit sector data be collected and prioritized in Statistics Canada surveys. The Government of Canada support collaboration between the sector and Statistics Canada for additional data collection and dissemination (Recommendation 16).
The Canada Revenue Agency publicly share data from the T1044 Non-Profit Organization Information Return (Recommendations 39).
Support Innovation in the Sector (ABNN collaboration model)
Review the common law meaning of charity to determine whether Canada should follow the approach of other jurisdictions, such as Australia and England, and enact legislation to broaden the legal meaning of charity (Recommendation 25).
Provide assistance to organizations that have had their application for registered charity status refused or revoked (Recommendations 24).