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What does the Alberta Government think about the nonprofit sector? Tips for government relations

Have you ever wondered what the Provincial Government’s take is on the nonprofit sector? Well, you’re in luck! Last fall, the Government of Alberta (GoA) released a discussion paper called Profiling the Nonprofit/Voluntary Sector (NPVS) in Alberta.

In this paper the Government of Alberta states, “The primary contribution of the NPVS is improving the quality of life in every community in the province. The sector drives community cohesion; it builds a sense of belonging and brings people together.” At Volunteer Alberta, we couldn’t agree more.

Reading the paper, we quickly realized that it is a great tool to use when talking to stakeholders about the sector, or as a starting point for nonprofit-Provincial Government relations. So, we decided to break down some key points in this blog in case you don’t have time to read the entire paper.

Definition and structure of the sector

The first section of the paper acknowledges that the NPVS is diverse and that, “[we] are the backbone supporting vibrant, welcoming and engaging communities and Albertans… [Our sector] touches every Albertan’s life in some way.”

There are more than 26,200 nonprofit organizations that make up 15 sub-sectors of nonprofit organizations. Notably, this paper recognizes a range of nonprofit structures; from informal to structured legal forms – and many in between.

The GoA then goes on to define nonprofits using the Alberta Nonprofit/Voluntary Sector Initiative’s (ANVSI) definition. They define nonprofits as:

“Self-governing organizations that exist to service the public benefit, generate social capital but not distribute profit to members, depend to a meaningful degree on volunteers, involve participation on a voluntary basis, and are independent or institutionally distinct from the formal structures of Government and the profit sector.”

Financial and social impact

Their paper also details the nonprofit’s contributions to Alberta’s economy and communities. This includes several different calculations on the economic and social value our sector holds in delivering complex services to communities, for example:

  • “$8.3 billion in volunteer labour is donated to the sector every year.”
  • “The number of nonprofit organizations in Alberta grew by 35 per cent between 2003 and 2018, from 19,356 to 26,212.”
  • “1.4 million Albertans volunteer across sub-sectors each year.”

Regarding impact, the report endorses the NPVS as “stewards of the collective wellbeing and common good” within Alberta. It recognizes that the NPVS faces “complex issues with efficiency, empathy and innovation” with an ability to take risks and find success which would not be possible in other sectors.

Nonprofit’s relationship with Government

Overall, the GoA believes that the nonprofit sector and Government have ‘interconnected mandates to provide services to Albertans.’ And when it comes to our participation in policy work, the nonprofit sector is seen as a “bridge to everyday Albertans.”

We, therefore, are responsible for holding each other accountable. For example, the Government holds us accountable via “regulatory and monitoring powers that ensure appropriate use of funds”, while we hold them accountable through “government relations efforts, writing position papers, and occasionally through judicial review.”

Building a positive relationship with Government

The paper ends with “the Building Blocks of a Positive Relationship” borrowed from Carter and Speevak’s Deliberate Relationships Between Government and the Nonprofit Sector. These are building blocks that support a positive Government-nonprofit relationship including seven points about communication, advocacy, and policy.

Finally, the appendices contain a glossary of terms, and “The Theory and History of Government/Nonprofit Sector Relationships in Canada.” This is beneficial as a brief overview for beginners. For more information, you can check out this blog from The Philanthropist.

 

Are you interested in reading the discussion paper? Profiling the Nonprofit/Voluntary Sector in Alberta is a great foundational document we recommend anyone involved in the nonprofit sector, advocacy, or their community read. This document can be leveraged as a starting place to build your organization’s government relations strategy.

 

Victoria Hinderks

Volunteer Alberta

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Guest Post: Ten things nonprofits want funders to know

This article originally appeared on the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) blog October 17, 2016.


onnONN has heard a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to funding. Through our policy work, and our outreach and engagement of our network and working groups of nonprofit leaders, we’ve heard from organizations of all sizes over the years from a variety of sectors and parts of Ontario. These ten things keep bubbling up.

So, we’re sharing them here to open a discussion about funding: how it flows, how it can be used, how it’s evaluated, and how data and information is shared. Whether it’s from government or non-government funders, what can be done to improve investment in the sector? Here’s what the nonprofit sector wants funders to know:

1. Budget flexibility: Rather than restrictions, help us innovate and invest in the essentials that we need to deliver on our missions.

2. Measuring success: Together, let’s find great ways to measure success. Focusing on overhead ratio is not an adequate way to measure our work or missions.

3. A resilient workforce: Your funding practices determine whether we can offer decent work and avoid losing our best and brightest to other sectors with better salaries, more secure employment, and benefits.

4. Meaningful evaluation: We want you to work with us to develop appropriate evaluation strategies that can help us to do our work better, while also leading to learnings for both of us.

5. Budget size: To foster healthy growth in the sector, let’s find alternatives to funding rules based on current budget size (aka Budget Testing– limiting funding based on an organization’s current budget size.) This can perpetuate existing inequities and hamstring growing nonprofits. How can an organization grow if it’s always pegged as “small”?

6. Applications: Help reduce costs to apply for funding- use a streamlined, fast-tracked application process and letters of intent.

7. Admin burden proportionate to funding: Adopt application processes, reporting requirements, and expected outcomes proportional to the level of funding provided (and vice versa).

8. Share what’s happening: Talk about the other projects or programs you fund. If you give us information and share data, we can build more effective partnerships.

9. Work with other funders: To streamline funding administration, create common granting guidelines, application forms, and reporting processes.

10. Matching funds: Do away with requiring matching funding as a condition of being approved for a grant; many rural, small, and newer organizations will especially benefit, including those serving marginalized populations.

Liz Sutherland
ONN

Header image: WOCinTech

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Advocacy: Networking for a Cause

prl_logoThis week we are sharing a blog by Meredith Bratland, Communications Coordinator at Parkland Regional Library. The article originally appeared in their publication, Quatrefoil Summer 2016.

While Meredith focuses on advocacy for libraries, we believe her insights are valuable for nonprofits in any subsector!


Advocacy work can be a hard sell. I’ve been conducting advocacy workshops with library boards throughout the region for three years and sometimes it sounds more political, complicated, and quite frankly like hard work than it truly is.

Basically, advocacy is networking for a cause.

Advocate (verb): publically recommend or support.

Network (verb): interact with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career.

When advocating for your library in the public sphere, you are still getting many of the benefits of traditional networking. It can be even more fulfilling because you are not just focusing on developing your own career but developing public services for your community as well.

Advocating and networking have these common characteristics that go together like peanut butter and jam:

  • Meeting and connecting with community members.
  • Building your list of contacts within the community.
  • Investing in your social capital.

Business writer Margaret Heffernan explains that “social capital is a form of mutual reliance, dependency, and trust. It hugely changes what people can do. This is more true now than ever. It’s impossible in modern organizations to know everything that you need to know. What you need are lots of people who know lots of different things. Collectively you’re smarter.”[1]

By creating a network of people in your community and letting them know you’re an advocate for the library, you can impact your library’s goals significantly because of the opportunities that arise from involving other perspectives.

Advocacy quoteThere are a few tips that make networking easier for introverts and extroverts:[2]

  1. Approach someone confidently.
  2. Have your elevator pitch, a concise 30 second message, ready and polished.
  3. Ask thoughtful questions.
  4. Be genuinely interested.
  5. Say something memorable that emphasizes or demonstrates your elevator speech.
  6. Follow up!

It can be even more straightforward by creating an advocacy plan. In the workshop, we discuss and create key messages that can be your elevator speech. We identify stories, which would act as a memorable tidbit that emphasizes the key message or elevator speech. Your entire library board will be sharing a similar message and the chance of success increases exponentially because of the connections created in each of your separate networks.

Your social capital will rise and your library’s goals and visibility in the community will improve too.

Meredith Bratland
Parkland Regional Library

 

[1] Career advice for millennials (and really, anyone) from Margaret Heffernan by Juliet Blake
[2] Practical Networking Tips for Introverts by Maricella Herrera Avila
Header photo attribution: WOCinTech

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Alberta Provincial Budget – What does it mean for nonprofits?

Legislature 2On October 27, the new NDP Alberta Government announced the budget and revealed very few surprises. The NDP election platform is reflected in the Alberta budget.

Volunteer Alberta reflected on the budget and identified a few highlights – we have shared them with our members, and now are sharing them more broadly.

Thousands of Albertans gave their opinions through consultations leading up to Budget Day. Realizing that energy will continue to be the core of our economy, Albertans stated in the consultations that we need to diversify our economy and not remain completely reliant on the energy sector.

The three priorities outlined in the budget are:

  1. Stabilize public services – stabilizing frontline public services including health care, education and social services
  2. Plan a balanced budget
  3. Act on jobs and diversification – stimulating job creation, economic growth and diversification

What does this mean for the nonprofit sector?

The budget reflects the government’s commitment to family and community and services to vulnerable Albertans.

  • It includes a 25 million increase in Family and Community Support Services
  • $50 Million increase to Community Facility Enhancement grant budget and increases for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts
  • Job creation programs include a $5000 grant for new fulltime positions beginning January 1st 2016 which will support up to 27,000 new jobs each year, through to 2017
  • Nonprofit eligibility applies to the job creation grant. Also, STEP (Summer Temporary Employment Program) has been reinstated with $10 Million in 2016. This is a valuable nonprofit resource in supporting community based programs and services
  • In addition, $15 Million has been budgeted for women’s shelters to address family violence

For more information about the budget please visit the Government of Alberta 2015 Budget website.

Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta

New Government, New Platform – Will it impact the nonprofit sector?

LeafOn Monday, Canada elected a new Liberal Government. The new government’s platform will impact our members, partners, and stakeholders. We have highlighted a few areas of the platform that may relate to nonprofit work, in all sub-sectors, across Alberta.

Nonprofit advocacy in particular is an element of the platform relevant to Volunteer Alberta.

Nonprofit Advocacy

From Volunteer Alberta Executive Director, Jann Beeston:

At Volunteer Alberta we believe, along with many others, that public policy is better when the nonprofit sector voice at the table.

Advocacy is a key part of Volunteer Alberta’s work. We can only do this work through the valuable input from our members, partners, and networks. We have worked in strategic partnership, with other nonprofit organizations, to influence direction related to;

  • privacy legislation,
  • vulnerable sector police information checks,
  • lobbyist act,
  • charitable donation tax credit,
  • nonprofit data,
  • funding mechanisms,
  • and the Alberta nonprofit incorporation review. 

Your voice is vital. It matters to our work, and to nonprofit advocacy and public policy work that impacts our sector and communities.

The Liberal platform promises to “modernize the rules” governing nonprofit advocacy, stating:

“We will allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and will modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy. A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

We will work to find opportunities for Alberta nonprofits to participate in the evolution of this and other new legislative frameworks. Volunteer Alberta will connect with both our strong provincial network of capacity building organizations, and national organization like Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada. We look forward to working collaboratively and to communicating with the sector on issues that impact across Canada.

Other Areas of Interest

On addition to the Liberal platform promise regarding nonprofit advocacy, the platform includes many other promises that you may want to keep track of as the new government settles in.

The following promises may impact the nonprofit sector under our new federal government:

  • Employment:
    • Create youth jobs in the heritage sector through the Young Canada Works program.
    • Waive Employment Insurance premiums for 12 months for 18-24 years old hired into permanent positions in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
  • Technology and Data:
    • Crowdsource policy ideas from citizens using technology.
    • Increase data collection and availability, including reinstatement of the long-form census and changes to Statistics Canada.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Invest in affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
    • Create more infrastructure funding and loan opportunities for municipalities.
  • Arts:
    • Invest in cultural and creative industries, including doubling investment in the Canada Council for the Arts and increased funding for other arts bodies and programs.
  • Environment:
    • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners to address water and soil conservation and development issues.
    • Support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
  • Indigenous Peoples:
    • Address housing, infrastructure, health and mental health care, community safety and policing, child welfare, and education through a nation-to-nation process with Indigenous Peoples.
    • New funding for Indigenous communities to promote and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Women:
    • Work with experts and advocates to develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan.
    • Increase investments in Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses for those fleeing domestic violence.
  • People with Disabilities:
    • Consult with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to introduce a National Disabilities Act to eliminate systemic barriers for Canadians with disabilities.
  • Housing and Homelessness:
    • Commit funding for Housing First initiatives for homeless Canadians.
  • International Aid:
    • Consult with Canadian and international aid organizations to review current policies and funding frameworks.
    • Widen international aid reproductive health services and increase spending on international development.
  • Unions:
    • Repeal Bills C-377 and C-525 that diminished Canada’s labour movement.

Review the Liberal platform for more information on these promises.

The platform includes further promises on issues that nonprofit sub-sectors and organizations may care about. Find more information on these promises in the platform:

  • Funding for post-secondary students
  • Accessible mental health services
  • Poverty reduction for children and seniors
  • Investment in agricultural research and technical and marketing assistance
  • Gender equality in government and public policies
  • National inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
  • Respect for Indigenous traditions in environmental stewardship
  • Climate change response framework and strengthened environmental protections
  • Quicker and increased immigration and refugee intake

What is your response to the Liberal government’s platform as it relates to the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organization issues in Alberta? Please share in the comments!

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