No Immunity: The impacts of COVID-19 on our sector
Vantage Point exists to lift and support not-for-profits across the province. When COVID-19 hit, we immediately reignited our core purpose - to convene, connect, and equip not-for-profit leaders. We saw our history of providing training and one-on-one support in governance, planning, HR, and leadership was needed more than ever.
Another part of our team focused on the convening and connecting aspects of our core purpose. Early on we saw the value of a sector-wide survey. As active participants in national discussions with organizations like the Ontario Non-profit Network, Imagine Canada, SaskNonprofit, Volunteer Canada, and others, it was obvious how helpful data could give perspective to our sector’s needs and experience. Alone, Vantage Point simply did not have the capacity and we could see subsectors, especially the arts community, were managing to collect data about their subsectors and were beginning to communicate their findings throughout their respective communities.
In our interactions with the Vancouver Foundation and the City of Vancouver, it became clear many players were considering surveys. The Victoria Foundation joined us and with a combination of resources – human and otherwise – we collaborated to create the BC Non-Profit Impact Survey.
A special thank you to Trina Isakson and Kylie Hutchinson, who were able to support the partnership with their data and research analysis skills and produce a draft report in record time.
What have we learned?
We heard the deep need for information and support regarding funding sources and opportunities and will leverage Vantage Point’s knowledge of funders, revenue development, and grant writing to support the sector.
COVID-19 has uncovered the impact of decades of pressures to limit spending in our organizations only to direct programs delivery. The ‘overhead myth’ pushing our organizations to limit investment in contingency funds, technology, employee benefits, and stable governance is part of what has created the precariousness of our vital work.
The results show us the resiliency and optimism of this sector – though the optimism is more for our own organizations than the whole sector. As we begin to recognize the digital divide which has always existed throughout the growing use of technology, the challenges organizations have are transitions to cloud-based home offices, relying on outdated software and hardware, and bridging the gap between the technology available and the lack of capacity to access it. Clearly, we look to the private sector for support in these areas and Vantage Point can contribute to advancing opportunities for private/not-for-profit partnership.
We also hear the unique challenges of our arts, sports, and recreational subsectors. The Arts are central to our recovery as we process the impacts of this crisis together. Sports and recreation organizations are central in keeping many of us healthy and active. They give opportunities to gather and play with our own communities and chosen families. Festivals, tournaments, events, and arts groups are designed to showcase and celebrate the lives of all British Columbians. We will continue to work with umbrella organizations like the Arts Alliance to align our advocacy work to assure the full scope of our sector is understood and visible to decision-makers in the province.
And Vantage Point will seek solutions to the challenges equity-seeking groups have in participating in surveys like this. We will strive to make the needs of our most vulnerable organizations central to the dialogue. While survey’s like this can tell a story, we must always pay attention to stories that fall through the cracks, supporting people with disabilities, Indigenous voices, LGBTQ2+ British Columbians, refugees and newcomers to Canada, and those marginalized by income inequality.
Thank you to everyone who was able to participate. We look forward to continuing our support of the sector in all its diversity.