by Maria Lahiffe
Why is it so hard to do great works of charity? The Senate put together a Special Committee to investigate this very question.
“Canada’s charitable and non-profit sector is diverse and vibrant. From sport to social support services, an estimated 86,000 registered charities and 85,000 non-profit organizations engage in public benefit activities that touch almost every aspect of Canadian life. The sector is also a significant economic driver, generating more than 7% of Canada’s gross domestic product and employing more than 2 million people.
“Today, we ask more than ever of the sector. Demand for services has increased, yet funding is constrained. In addition, technology has disrupted traditional models of service delivery and changed the way in which charities and non-profit organizations interact with volunteers and donors. A new roadmap is needed to enable the sector to continue to build on its strengths and adapt to new and emerging realities.
“The charitable and non-profit sector has suffered from benign neglect for too long. Legal rules have been reformed in a piecemeal fashion; task force recommendations have gone unimplemented; and kind words have all too often served as a substitute for meaningful action. The time for real change has come.” 
The Special Committee made 42 recommendations, of which the top four related to volunteerism.
The top recommendation was for the federal government to develop and implement a national volunteer strategy. The intent of the national strategy should be to encourage volunteerism by all Canadians in their communities, recognizing the unique needs of northern, rural, and urban communities.
Effective management of volunteers is not easy. It takes time and effort. The Special Committee recognizes that people need to be managed well if they are to do effective work. In light of this, recommendation number two is to include volunteer management costs in their grant awards.
It is unfair to ask a volunteer to pay for anything related to their service. On the other hand, robust screening is essential to protect the beneficiaries of charities’ work – many of these beneficiaries are among the nation’s most vulnerable people. The Special Committee recognizes that a cost for police checks is a barrier to entry for many volunteers, and for many organizations who need to recruit them.
Volunteers create tremendous value for our country, in every part of the community, from social services, through the arts, sports, environmental conservation, faith-based services, to professional associations, community health services, and more. It is estimated that the work of volunteers in strictly monetary terms amounts to over $50 Billion per year, or 2.6% of Canada’s GDP.  The Special Committee’s fourth recommendation is that this immense value be formally recognized.
This is only the start. These recommendations will only be implemented if we work to make sure that our elected officials know they are important to us. Make sure to contact people who are running for office in your electoral district, to ask them their plans for implementing these recommendations. You can ask for a meeting with any candidate in the riding where you live, and also where you work.
Elections Canada can give you the name of your electoral district. Many candidates have already started campaigning now, even though the writ has not yet dropped. Google the name of your electoral district to find out who is running, and where to find their campaign office.
To learn more about Not-for-Profit leadership, come to an upcoming workshop
Click here to register Wednesday, October 16, 2019. 6:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Click here to register Thursday, November 21, 2019. 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Volunteer Ottawa offers a comprehensive suite of courses related to all aspects of running a non-profit or a charity. Click here for our event calendar. Subscribe to our Event RSS Feed to be among the first to know when a new workshop is added to the schedule.
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