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Stepping Up to Strengthen the Non-Profit and Charitable Sector

November 29, 2022

Over the years, Vancouver Foundation has dedicated time and resources to support and lead successful advocacy campaigns including Lost Votes YVR and Support the 700. More recently, we’ve been working with sector partners to advocate for priorities on behalf of the sector and seeing successes such as the Recovery & Resiliency Fund in which, working with government and provincial partners, $34 million will be disbursed to non-profits and charities across BC.

We recognize there is more we can do to support and advocate for the charitable and non-profit sector and communities across BC through our influence, resources, and relationships. So we reached out for advice on where to start.

Process and What We Heard

This spring we embarked on an engagement process to listen, validate, and identify priorities shared by the sector. We engaged with Community Foundations across BC, agencies that hold endowments at Vancouver Foundation, and organizations that have received funding from Vancouver Foundation since 2020. Through a survey, small group discussions, and key informant interviews we built new relationships and strengthened existing ones. And we learned of innovative ideas and emerging priorities affecting charities and non-profits across the province. We’re grateful to everyone who participated and shared their perspectives.

Throughout the process we heard several key themes raised by leaders in the sector:

Non-profits and charities need more funding to meet the needs of communities across BC. Demand for programs and services continues to increase while operating costs are increasing due to supply chain issues and long-term inflation. Meanwhile, it is becoming more and more challenging for organizations to recruit and retain qualified staff and offer livable wages and benefits. Resources are also needed to build capacity in social justice and cultural awareness and safety to better support the needs of equity-denied communities.

Now more than ever, funders need to be responsive to the challenges charities and non-profits are facing and thus, funding needs to be more accessible. Examples of what this could look like are implementing trust-based funding practices in granting programs (low barrier application processes, shifts away from written reporting, building and nurturing relationships), granting to non-profits without charitable status (aka non-qualified donees), and increasing the percentage applicants can allocate toward administrative and operating expenses. Receiving unrestricted funding allows organizations to meet the needs of their communities and address the challenges named above.

Our organizations provide essential support and services to meet the basic needs and well-being of people and communities across the province. Because of this, the sector needs to be seen and valued as an equal partner by elected officials, the private sector and the public.

Lastly, organizations want to advocate and influence public policy yet resourcing and staffing are needed to build internal capacity for this work. Additionally, knowledge mobilization related to government relations, lobbying and public policy is required for boards of directors, volunteers and staff of non-profits and charities.

What’s Next?

The next year will be an exciting and critical time for Vancouver Foundation as we lean into advocacy and shifting public policy. We’ll test where the energy lies on themes and priorities identified within the sector and with the government. We’ll develop new partnerships and expand our relationships with elected officials and civil servants while deepening our engagement with the sector. And we’ll conduct research to explore new ideas and concepts that will strengthen the sector and communities across British Columbia.

Concurrently, we’ll continue progressing on existing policy files and partnerships already in motion. Lastly, we’ll remain adaptive and responsive to issues that emerge during these uncertain times to support the sector to thrive.

Have a comment on this blog post? Contact us at communications@vancouverfoundation.ca with your reactions.