We need a Minister. Not only in response to this year’s crisis and other urgent issues that arise, but also longer term, as an opportunity for Canada to build new ways to drive innovation in the social sector and ensure its vitality.

Written by: Kristi Fairholm Mader | Director, Innovation and Initiatives, Scale Collaborative and Joanna Buczkowska-McCumber | Executive Director, League of Innovators | Board Chair, Scale Institute Society

Non-profits are being included (after significant advocacy) in the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy and relief package, but the new qualifications barely consider the realities of fundraising and revenue flows in a non-profit environment. Non-profits tend to have annual revenue projections with funds coming in in large chunks, not consistent like business revenue. This means that non-profits tend to have 2-3 months cash in the bank and may not show immediate reduction in revenues, but they are spending tomorrow’s funds today. Non-profits will be in significant financial crisis in 2-3 months with no more runway. It is not good enough to be bundled together with the business sector which has urgent, but different, needs.

Over the past two decades the sector has worked hard adopting new approaches to serve communities while ensuring financial sustainability through technology fueled fundraising, social enterprise and enterprising non-profit structures. Non-profits provide immense value to society from providing vital services for marginalized populations, creating equitable opportunities, saving animals from abuse and so on – the list of missions is vast and affects every aspect of Canadians lives.

Yet as we looked for where to advocate for the unique needs of the non-profits sector, we couldn’t find a government ministry or email address to share our concerns with. The reality is that the non-profit and charity sector has been often left to fend for itself, with no designated Ministry representation, secretariat or coordinated national (or even provincial) strategies to strengthen and grow.

We need a Minister. Not only in response to this year’s crisis and other urgent issues that arise, but also longer term, as an opportunity for Canada to build new ways to drive innovation in the social sector and ensure its vitality. 

The sector as a whole requires representation, a Ministry with a Minister whose job it is to understand, support and strengthen the non-profit and charitable sector. Exactly like the tech sector gets, and forestry, fishing, agriculture, tourism and so on. This is not a new concept and has been identified as a significant issue. 8.5% of GDP (the size of the non-profit sector) has been ignored for too long.

So much work has been done by our colleagues to convene conversation about non-profit needs during this period but the reality of the matter is we don’t have representation, we don’t have a seat at the table, we don’t have someone in government dedicated to supporting the needs of this sector at this transitional time, and our sector is facing a crisis. 2.4 million employees deserve better. We need a Minister at the federal level to take our concerns to, to understand the complexities of our diverse sector across the country, and to advocate for our needs when it is most needed – and that time is now. 

We wish there was an email address of someone we could rally an email campaign around, but since that is the problem, we will repeat (and have added to) the calls to action from our previous article:

Caring Community Members:

  1. Become a monthly donor to organizations you care about. Monthly donors provide secure, unrestricted funds that organizations can depend and build on. Even $10 monthly donations make a difference. 
  2. If you are not sure what organization to support, donate to your local community foundation, United Way or impact investment funds– they know the sector and are mobilizing responses.
  3. Ask your MP and MLA who is the Minister representing non-profits and charities and if they don’t know, ask them if they’d be willing to be. Maybe our sector just needs to appoint someone. 

Non-Profit Leaders and Board Members:

  1. BC non-profit leaders and board members: Fill out this quick survey- responses are being collected by Vantage Point.
  2. All non-profits and charities- fill out Imagine Canada’s survey – the louder we yell collectively, the more we might get what our organizations, employees and communities need.
  3. Join the call to action and write a letter to your MP to ask the Canadian Government for specific supports needed in this immediate period including an $8 billion stabilization fund for the sector.

Read more from our, series Conversations for Sector Transformation: