New Research Reveals BC’s Non-Profits Face an Uncertain Future

February 17, 2021

Nearly a year into the pandemic, the fabric that ties together people and communities across our province is fraying.

That’s what we’ve learned in Unraveling, a new report produced by Vantage Point with the support of Vancouver and Victoria Foundations. It reveals almost half of BC’s non-profits are at risk of closing down if current conditions continue — a troubling possibility.

Among the findings, arts and culture and sports and recreation groups are most concerned about their ability to survive. Small non-profits with budgets under $1 million report significant vulnerability. Among those working with specific populations, organizations that serve racialized communities are disturbingly precarious. Across the board, the majority of those surveyed say demand is up, revenue is down, and it’s getting harder to deliver the programs and services people rely on.

As the biggest funder of charitable activities outside of government in BC, this vulnerability is of deep concern to Vancouver Foundation. During the pandemic we worked with our donors and partners — and dug deep ourselves — to mobilize nearly $20 million in emergency funding. It made a real difference at an urgent time, but long-term community resilience is under threat. We need to take action that ensures both stability now and sustainability into the future.

The Unraveling report gives us a roadmap for what that action might look like, starting with a simple but profound idea: trust non-profits to do what’s best. Major funders like government and foundations can help organizations navigate troubled waters in five meaningful ways:

    • Embrace trust-based funding that positions non-profits to adapt and innovate
    • Make more funding available and expand support for core funding and non-profit infrastructure
    • Reduce barriers in eligibility and reporting requirements
    • Work with local funders who have the best understanding of their local communities
    • Make permanent any improvements that were introduced to simplify access to funding during COVID

It’s also critically important that all of us continue to rally together to face these challenging times. Corporate donors, who stepped back in the first stages of the pandemic, need to step up again. Those who can volunteer should return, safely, to the local organizations they love. Individuals who are doing well during the pandemic should be as generous as they can to the organizations that need it most.

Even in these dark times, Unraveling reveals comforting glimmers of hope. Some non-profits are bouncing back quickly. Many remain open today thanks to the vital emergency supports provided by governments and foundations. And there’s a widespread sense of optimism that this vital sector can recover with the right support. It will take all of us working together to get there. At Vancouver Foundation, we’re committed to doing our part.

You can find the full Unraveling report on the Vantage Point’s website here.

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