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Contributions of the Nonprofit Sector

Very interesting report on the nonprofit sector in Ontario:

Contributions of the NonProfit Sector

The nonprofit sector is an often-overlooked contributor to the Canadian economy. In 2007, the value-added or gross domestic product (GDP) of the nonprofit sector was $35.6 billion, accounting for 2.5 per cent of the total Canadian economy. This share increases to 7.0 per cent when hospitals, universities and colleges are included, reaching $100.7 billion in 2007.14 Excluding hospitals, colleges and universities, the nonprofit sector employs 600,000 people and has over five million volunteers, supporting a wide variety of sectors including health, education, environment and social services in Ontario. These same nonprofit organizations in the province have annual revenues of $29 billion, 45 per cent coming from earned income, 29 per cent from federal and provincial government grants and service contracts, and 26 per cent from gifts, donations and other sources.15

Most nonprofit organizations (53 per cent) in Ontario are completely volunteer-run, having no paid staff.16 We must not underestimate the contributions of volunteers to care for our elderly, retrain the unemployed, educate our children and care for our environment. Steps should be taken to ensure that these organizations continue to get funding. However, there is room for improvement in terms of streamlining administration and ensuring that accountability frameworks focus on outcome metrics. In addition, multi-year agreements can help create predictable budget cycles for nonprofit organizations.

Recommendation 8-17: Reform funding practices in the nonprofit sector to increase flexibility and reduce administrative costs by focusing on measuring outcomes rather than inputs.

There is also room for improving the responsiveness of the government to the nonprofit sector. The Commission notes the precedent set by the Open for Business initiative that creates a single window through which business can engage all government ministries. We believe a similar model would be helpful to the nonprofit sector, which is just as varied and diverse as the private sector.

Recommendation 8-18: Provide a single point of access within government for the nonprofit sector to improve and broaden relationships across ministries that enter into contracts with the nonprofit sector, using a model such as the Open for Business initiative.

Read the full report here: http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/index.html

Are there Enough Volunteers in Alberta?

To mark National Volunteer Week, PrimeTime Television hosted Volunteer Alberta’s Executive Director Karen Lynch for a discussion around Alberta’s nonprofit/voluntary sector.

Click here to watch the interview

Volunteering 101 – open up to the awesome

From the Hinton Voice – April 14, 2011
Tyler Waugh

Karen Lynch was everything I’d hoped she would be as executive director of Volunteer Alberta.

She’s outspoken and doesn’t sugarcoat emerging and ongoing challenges within the volunteer world, but is equally optimistic about how boards and committees will adapt to those challenges.

Lynch spoke to around 100 people April 11 at a board of directors appreciation dinner hosted by the Town of Hinton at the Hinton Centre as part of National Volunteer Week.

The volunteer advocate and self-described board junkie pulled no punches in giving a realistic assessment of what too many boards are doing wrong.

Among other things she touched upon during the 40-minute presentation was the issue of marketing opportunities within an organization. She emphasized word of mouth in setting the tone for positive experiences. Sounds hokey, sure, but her example rang true to me.

How many times have we stood in a checkout line and either overheard a conversation or held one personally with somebody lamenting how they had to go to a meeting that particular night and how they’d rather be lounging in their chair in front of the television. Can’t say I haven’t been guilty of that myself. Lately, I have been pretty open about the fact that I am likely going to pull back on my volunteer commitments for a year or so. I’ve never thought about statements like that being misconceived as negative about my volunteer experiences.

It couldn’t be further from the truth and since I value volunteering, I probably owe it to the movement to discuss how the different roles make me feel and how I’ve benefitted. So here it goes.

Hinton United Way – I was invited to a lunch meeting in 2005 under the auspices of covering it for the paper and left as a board member. While I still wonder just exactly how that happened (I didn’t get a lunch, either!), it’s hard to argue with the experience.

Helping coordinate fundraising and marketing opportunities for a diverse group of local non-profits is pretty exciting, especially considering the vital services these groups provide to those less fortunate in our community.

It’s provided me a far better perspective on some of the unique challenges in our town and a deep appreciation for those who toil in relative anonymity to make it better. I hope I never need their services, but I feel better knowing they exist in case the unexpected should occur.

Citizens Advisory Group – This is my first experience on a town-driven committee. I spend my professional life reporting and commenting on what these committees undertake and this was my first foray into “seeing how the sausage is made” so to speak.

Honestly? It’s been a long grind and frustrating at times as 11 people with unique perspectives endeavoured to marry long-term municipal planning with public-driven objectives.

With the end near (our final draft goes to Town Council on May 3), it’s easier to reflect on what a remarkably rewarding experience it’s been. I’ll miss the debates about Hinton’s future with people I respect and learning that “making the sausage” should be somewhat hard if it’s going to be relevant.

Hinton Minor Hockey – Helping to coach atom hockey this year meant being at the rink a lot and, for me, being at the rink helping out is like a two thumbs up sundae dripping with awesome sauce.

Volunteer, I tell you, and open yourself up to the awesome.

 

Edmonton Journal -A letter from Volunteer Alberta on how generous Albertans are (December 10, 2011)

Is Canada’s culture of giving actually falling?

Some lament that rates of charitable giving and volunteering are on the decline. There is a false perception that too many charities pay their CEOs “over a million dollars with unlimited expenses” and non-profit misspending leaves only small portions of donations for actual charity.

Myths need to be dispelled and facts presented.

Volunteer Alberta compiled Statistics Canada data (visit www.volunteeralberta.ab.ca) clearly demonstrating Albertans are charitable with their time and money.

With donating, 85 per cent of Albertans gave financially in 2007 undefined an increase from 79 per cent in 2004 to 85 per cent in 2007.

Albertans donated the largest amounts ($596 average per person).

Fifty-two per cent of Albertans volunteered an average of 172 hours in 2007, up from 48 per cent in 2004 (also higher than the Canadian average of 48 per cent). Over 1,445,000 Albertans volunteer their time.

Regarding CEO pay, Canada Revenue Agency already requires charities to disclose highest compensated staff and rates of pay (donors can easily check this at www.cra-arc.gc.ca/charities).

Ask people working in the non-profit sector. But with few exceptions, most employees are not making wages anywhere near those in the private or public sectors.

Targeted research, planning and administration are necessary for efficient program delivery. Moreover, of Alberta’s roughly 19,000 non-profit/voluntary organizations, 58 per cent are completely volunteer run.

Albertans are generous and they naturally want to live in stronger and more vibrant communities.

This culture of giving does not mean we should let up. Instead, let’s continue researching where our financial contributions make the biggest difference in our communities and explore ways of volunteering using our talents and skills in more specialized ways.

Karen Lynch, executive director, Volunteer Alberta, Edmonton

Read more here.

 

National Study Finds Pitfalls and Opportunities in Changing Volunteer Landscape

Organizations Urged to Strengthen Strategies to Improve Volunteer Satisfaction

 A new national study shows that while Canada’s voluntary sector is the second largest in the world after the Netherlands, a significant number of volunteers report an experience that is less than satisfying.   The latest data on the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector was released today by Volunteer Canada, the national leader on volunteerism, in partnership with Manulife Financial.

The study found that 62 percent of Canadians who volunteer on a regular basis indicated they had at least one ‘negative experience’ either due to perceived organizational politics, the belief that their skills were not being put to  best use, feeling like they were not making a difference, or frustration with lack of support related to the volunteer activity.

The national research study gathered practical information for use by organizations to attract and retain skilled, dedicated volunteers.  The study revealed there are significant gaps between the opportunities organizations are providing and the meaningful experiences today’s volunteers are seeking.

“The primary gaps include the fact that many Canadians are looking for group or short-term activities but few organizations have the capacity to offer them or prefer a longer-term commitment,” said Ruth MacKenzie, President & CEO of Volunteer Canada. “In addition, many of those with professional skills are looking for volunteer tasks that involve something different from their work life.  While organizations are expected to clearly define the roles and boundaries of volunteers, many Canadians want to create their own volunteer opportunity,” she said.

Other respondents indicated that they would like to achieve some personal goals through volunteer work while at the same time help meet the needs of the organization.

Engaging volunteers in strategic roles in organizations will help nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations advance their mandates, and will create opportunities for individuals choosing to apply their skills sets to make a bigger difference in their communities,” said Karen Lynch, Executive Director of Volunteer Alberta. “We provide a number of programs, services and resources (through the Resource Centre for Voluntary Organizations at Volunteer Alberta) that will assist nonprofit/voluntary organizations across Alberta implement some of the ideas and trends captured in this study.”

Unlike earlier surveys that emphasized overall participation rates, this new research captured what Canadians want in their volunteer experiences, how easy it is for them to find satisfying volunteer roles, and what organizations can do to enhance their volunteer base and ultimately build stronger communities.

“Advances in technology, shifting demographics and increased resource pressures mean today’s organizations must re-evaluate all facets of their volunteer policies and practices, and ultimately embrace different approaches,” added MacKenzie.   “The findings suggest the optimal formula for engaging volunteers is one where organizations are well organized but not too bureaucratic and open to letting volunteers determine the scope of what they can offer.”

“The results also clearly indicate that it’s important to match a volunteer’s skills to the needs of the organization but not assume that the volunteer wants to use the skills specifically related to their profession, trade, or education,” she said.

Conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada in the summer of 2010 by the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research & Development at Carleton University and Harris/Decima, the study provides the most current national data about the changing culture of Canada’s voluntary sector and the perspectives of four key groups:  youth, baby boomers, families, and employer-supported volunteers.

Respondents in these four groups revealed that the volunteer experiences individuals are looking for change significantly as Canadians move through the different stages of their lives.  The results also pointed to an increasing number of recent immigrants of boomer age, who could play a pivotal volunteer role in helping to integrate and support new immigrants into Canadian society, thanks to their unique cultural and linguistic skills.

Compounding the need for new approaches is the fact that Canadians are not necessarily following in the footsteps of Canada’s ‘uber volunteers’ who are getting older.  These uber volunteers represent about seven per cent of Canadians who contribute approximately 78 per cent of the volunteer time in Canada.

The research study results offer practical information that Canadian organizations can use to improve the way they involve volunteers by exploring the characteristics, motivations, and experiences of current volunteers, past volunteers, and those who have yet to try volunteering.

Overall, respondents indicated that organizations could improve the volunteer experience by: getting to know volunteers’ unique needs and talents; using a human resources approach that integrates both paid employees and volunteers; being flexible and accommodating to recognize volunteers’ other time commitments; respecting volunteers’ gender, culture, language and age differences; as well as providing more online volunteer opportunities.

“As Canada marks 10 years since we celebrated the United Nations International Year of Volunteers in 2001, applying the lessons learned from this research can help bridge the gap to more meaningful volunteer engagement in the future, and solidify volunteerism not just as a fundamental value of a civil society but as a true act of Canadian citizenship,” said Rosemary Byrne, Board Chair of Volunteer Canada.

The study was conducted on behalf of Volunteer Canada and in partnership with corporate leader in the sector Manulife Financial.  The research initiative is part of a multi-year program Manulife Financial is implementing to strengthen volunteerism in Canada in order to help build strong and sustainable communities for Canadians.

See the full study: Bridging the Gap

 

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