Our Letter to City of Vancouver
We are asking not-for-profit and charitable organizations to endorse our letter asking Vancouver City Council to preserve its critical funding support for the sector. Please take a moment to add your first and last name, position title, and organization in the comment section of this page. Thank you.
Council members, City of Vancouver
Vancouver City Hall
453 West 12th Ave
April 24, 2020
Subject: Maintain Funding of Not-for-Profits in Vancouver - They are a vital part of sustaining our communities.
Dear Mayor Kennedy Stewart and Council Members,
We acknowledge the remarkable work the City is doing to support our communities during the unprecedented and rapidly changing environment of the COVID-19 crisis. We commend you for the thoughtful actions you have taken to protect individuals and families in the region and for advocating on their behalf with higher levels of government.
In BC, as in the rest of Canada, charitable and not-for-profit organizations are currently seeing an increased demand for their services, increased operating costs, and have lost major sources of revenue. We employ over 86,000 people across the province. We also contribute up to $6.69 billion in programs and services per year. Beyond the essential services and support we provide for our most vulnerable, our sector is also a critical engine of economic prosperity and jobs.
As we rebuild our communities, our sector's role cannot be overstated. Consider the work of:
- WISH - supporting women in the downtown eastside who are disproportionately affected by violence, extreme poverty, and ill health. WISH is the line between life and death for some of the most vulnerable women in our community.
- Potluck - acting as a manufacturer and distribution centre for healthy meals to residents in need in the downtown eastside.
- All the neighbourhood houses - connecting residents who are isolated with key supports to keep seniors, families, babies, and people with disabilities healthy - and doing it in multiple languages.
- Community-based choral societies like Highs and Lows, connecting people struggling with mental health challenges to the healing art of singing.
As a sector, our work is crucial to mitigate the evolving hardship and loss of life associated with COVID-19.
Vantage Point's commitment is to continue working with government, businesses, and our community partners to ensure the vital services we provide are available during this emergency. We want you to know this sector is currently disproportionately impacted by overlapping risks which threaten our ability to continue working to support public wellbeing and resilience.
Results of our recent province-wide survey of the sector estimates that, without a targeted investment strategy to bolster the sector, up to 22,000, and likely more, of not-for-profit employees are likely to lose their job by the end of June. Many of those in the Vancouver area. As a response, Vantage Point and our community partners have launched several initiatives to help not-for-profit organizations access federal and provincial government supports to make sure they keep their doors open and their services available.
We understand the pressures on the City to manage the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our communities. However, ending the supports you offer to your not-for-profit partners will only exacerbate the crisis we are currently experiencing. City of Vancouver grants in Social Planning and the Arts are an essential core support to keep key organizations open and functioning. Without our organizations, and without the funding support of the City, Vancouver would not be the resilient community it is. To this end, we urge your government to consider the following recommendations to address these crucial needs of the sector:
1. Maintain funding of not-for-profits in Vancouver and ensure emergency relief programs and funds made available to businesses also include clearly defined mechanisms to support the not-for-profit and charitable sector.
Not-for-profits and charities are seeing the same or greater revenue losses and challenges as private businesses - even their non-governmental funders are losing money and staff, creating a ripple effect. After years of dwindling funding sources and limited alternatives for undesignated funding, few organizations have cash reserves on which they can draw during a crisis.
The programming our sector provides is an essential factor to public wellbeing and there are strong financial arguments for maintaining, even increasing, your funding and other supports to the sector. The City supports not-for-profits which attract financial and human resources far beyond the dollars the City investment spends on grants.
2. Leverage mechanisms the Province recently announced to address cash flow and revenue loss challenges faced by municipal governments.
We were pleased to see the Provincial Government has offered local governments greater flexibility to borrow and carry deficits to help pay for operating expenses, such as employee salaries and other civic services. Sound financial thinking also supports investing directly in the not-for-profit sector in challenging times. Every contributed dollar supports the attraction of more dollars. The number of employees hired in Vancouver by the sector - employees paying rent, mortgages, city fees, etc. - are estimated to be in the tens of thousands. This crisis is not a time for austerity. Our sector looks forward to our continued partnership with you to maximize public wellbeing benefits through the thoughtful allocation of your investments.
3. Relax funding restrictions and provide greater flexibility to the allocation of funds.
Not-for-profit organizations experience additional pressures due to the ways they are funded. Funding agreements may stipulate outcomes for the number of participants, and these might not be met during a health crisis. There are serious implications for not-for-profits if governmental and non-governmental funders and donors reinforce expectations for outcomes or outputs, which may not be manageable, or even possible. We urge your government and municipal departments to continue to flow funds through grant and contribution programs and to emphasize flexibility in program delivery timelines and the use of these funds. We also request administrative burdens related to reporting and renewal to be minimized. Clear communication around flexibility measures would provide essential assistance for not-for-profits.
4. Ensure further measures - which provide employee assistance and help to retain employment - address the unique needs of charities and not-for-profits.
We have been pleased to see various levels of government implement mechanisms to mitigate job losses and support those who have been laid-off. However, employees in the not-for-profit sector have unique needs. Therefore, while mortgage deferrals have been a welcome respite for households affected by job losses, most not-for-profit employees are renters with average salaries 13.8% less than the provincial average. We urge you to consider how you can leverage municipal facilities and redeploy resources in ways which allow charities and not-for-profits to maintain operations, sustain facilities and infrastructure temporarily closed, and ensure capacity to reopen during the recovery period.
5. Ensure communications about emergency funds and programming refer to employers rather than businesses.
Charities and not-for-profits employ over 86,000 British Columbians. Governments' language should recognize this fact so it is clear to your staff, the public, and not-for-profits. Not-for-profit voices will ensure the needs of the not-for-profit sector, including their volunteers, workers, and constituents, are explicitly addressed in emergency preparedness response and recovery.
Your investment in not-for-profits is an investment which will save lives and aid our city in the recovery efforts. As your partner is public wellbeing, the not-for-profit sector has an unwavering pledge to work together to support your local government and our communities through this crisis and beyond.
Please submit your first and last name, position title, and organization in the comments section if you would like to endorse this letter to Vancouver City Council. Thank you!