Research Bulletin December 2017: Creating a strong, sustainable sector

We’ve spent the last month (among many other things) tracking research, analyses, and evaluations from across Canada that can help inform and improve service delivery in BC.

This month’s research bulletin shares research that analyzes and addresses issues related to the strength and sustainability of our sector: funding models, government relations, social policy, working conditions, sector (and organizational) growth, as well as mental health at work. Here’s what we’re covering in this issue:

1. Charities, Sustainable Funding and Smart Growth
2. Change Work: Valuing decent work in the not-for-profit sector
3. Charting a Path Forward: Strengthening the Charitable Sector in Canada
4. 2017 Alberta Nonprofit Survey
5. Mental Health in the Workplace

You may have noticed that ‘strength and sustainability’ will also be the theme of our February 2018 Social Policy Forum in Victoria. We’re bringing together stakeholders and planning two days of learning, dialogue, and action dedicated to strengthening our sector and improving service delivery—and registration is open now!

As always, our goal is to share useful research and information in a useful way. If you have feedback about how we can make this service better and/or if you want to suggest issues or service areas for our Research and Policy Analyst to pay attention to, please contact us.


1. Charities, Sustainable Funding, and Smart Growth (2016)

This report by Imagine Canada analyzes the importance of the economic contributions of Canada’s charity and nonprofit sector. It also tracks the sector’s recent growth and offers scenarios and projections for the future.

The authors argue that governments must recognize the sector’s importance as an economic force and treat it as such with policies designed to stimulate smart growth, productivity, and employment.

More importantly, however, the authors warn that failing to do so will result in a “social deficit” as demographics change and sector growth slows. This deficit will appear as a gap between what is expected from the nonprofit sector and what it will be able to do with future revenue projections:

This social deficit will appear as an accumulation of unmet needs, in growing waiting lists for social services, and in increasingly overburdened charities and nonprofits, overworked staff and volunteers.

Without changes to social policy and funding patterns, non-profits and charities across the country will struggle to meet the social, cultural, and environmental needs of Canadians in the future and we will all experience a slow but perceptible erosion of our quality of life.


2. Change Work: Valuing decent work in the not-for-profit sector (2015)

This 2015 report was part of a collaborative effort between the Ontario Nonprofit Network, Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, and Mowat NFP to promote discussion about “decent work” in the non-profit sector and to encourage action on workforce development issues.

One of the main goals of this (ongoing) decent work initiative is to explicitly link the goals of social protection and inclusion to employment and economic growth. According to the authors, program demands are too often pitted against investment in organizational support and management.

And while the authors argue that adequate government support is one key requirement, they also include an examination of the internal cultures of organizations: “Decent work is not only about policy changes at the government level. It requires collective action to ensure structures, regulations, and practices […] work for each sector.

The report argues that positive changes will require discussions that challenge both existing funding models as well as legislative and regulatory structures that impede long-term planning and responsiveness for service providers.


3. Charting a Path Forward Strengthening and Enabling the Charitable Sector in Canada (2017)

This recent report (also by Mowat NFP and Imagine Canada) explains how, over the last two decades, Canada’s nonprofit and charitable sector has significantly evolved into an essential part of Canada’s social fabric, civic life, and economy. The report’s goal is to position and describe the country’s non-profit sector as “a vital partner in maintaining a healthy and productive democracy.”

However, growing demand for services, changing demographics, and economic shifts are beginning to change how governments work with, think about, and finance charities and nonprofits across the country: “The resulting mismatch between organizational realities of nonprofits and charities and the current policies and frameworks has strained the government-sector relationship.

This short, readable report serves to (1) define the current challenges straining the relationship between the federal government and the nonprofit and charitable sector, (2) explore what the future of that relationship could look like, (3) identify possible priorities, and (4) present options for improving engagement between the government and the sector.


4. 2017 Alberta Nonprofit Survey (2017)

This analysis of Alberta’s annual Nonprofit Survey examines the impact of Alberta’s economic downturn on the province’s nonprofit sector—and the impact is quite evident.

The report contains brand new data broken down by region, budget size, subsector, charitable status, and organizational staffing size. (The majority of respondents were social services organizations.)

According to the authors, the province’s economic downturn has affected the social wellbeing of citizens and the stability of many non-profits and charities. In fact, the majority of organizations that responded (62%) reported an operating reserve of six months or less.

This is a short but numbers-heavy report with plenty of charts and statistics. And those numbers tell an important story about where our neighbouring province needs to focus its attention in order to maintain the critical services and supports that Albertans deserve.


5. Mental health in the workplace (2017)

Lastly, this online white paper from the World Health Organization addresses the growing issue of mental health in the workplace. It also covers a range of difficulties that may be created or exacerbated by work (such as stress and burnout).

The brief analysis compiles years of WHO research and analysis into a short online guide to workplace mental health. It covers work-related risk factors, ways to create a healthier workplace, and ways of supporting people with mental health issues at work.

Also included are links to the WHO’s Global Plan of Action on Worker’s Health (2008-2017) and its Mental Health Action Plan (2013-2020) which outlines relevant and internationally recognized principles, objectives, and implementation strategies to promote good mental health in the workplace.