A Transition and New Opportunities for the Not-for-Profit Sector
This month I will transition from my role at Vantage Point as Director of Capacity Development to a new role as the inaugural Executive Director at Columbia College Society. In this new endeavour I will build and grow the charitable operation of Columbia College to enhance the educational impact of the society within the community. I am thrilled at the opportunity to connect with a new community of people; I'm equally excited to announce the next leader for Vantage Point's efforts to advance a healthy public policy environment for the not-for-profit sector.
Beginning January 15th, Omar Dominguez will join the team as the Director of Government Relations and Sector Development. Omar has fourteen years of experience leading outstanding teams and pioneering initiatives in corporate, philanthropic, not-for-profit, and voluntary organizations. He has advised a broad range of international clients and stakeholders ranging from senior government officials, not-for-profits, business executives, investors, Indigenous groups, and some of the most active developers of affordable housing in this region.
In announcing Omar's role at Vantage Point, the two of us wanted to share some of our thoughts about what might be possible for the sector. We worked as a team to bring our perspectives together in the next section of this article which highlights our passion for Vantage Point's mission and method.
- Mark Friesen
Strengthening communities through a healthy policy environment
From a socio-economic standpoint, many communities around the world are currently struggling. Challenges faced by entire cities and regions include environmental and health impacts from the climate crisis, economic disparity and inequality, and social and cultural isolation.
Fortunately, we have a business and organizing model that is equipped to mobilize communities of people and resources to address these challenges: the not-for-profit business model.
Not-for-profit organizations are built to connect people together with like-minded partners, to rally the support of our largest institutions, and to focus resources exclusively on creating the future we want to see in our communities. This might mean a new playground for our kids, protecting an ancient forest, setting up a clothing exchange, or making accessible health supports available for each other. The not-for-profit organizing model can repatriate wealth unjustly extracted from communities and return it to the public realm. Not-for-profits can access all resource types: skilled volunteers, gifts in-kind, donations, earned revenues, government funding, enterprise revenues, capital donations, grants, memberships, sponsorships, and more.
Yet, despite their critical influence on the quality of life for British Columbians, not-for-profits are in many ways suffocating under economic policies and regulations which undermine their efforts. In 2019, a Senate report on the Canadian charitable sector found that while community-based organizations are resilient and innovative, their potential is limited by complex, outdated rules and a lack of coordinated government support.1 This is a problem because community-based organizations support every aspect of our lives.
For far too long, the Canadian charitable and not-for-profit sector has been neglected in an unfortunate regulatory limbo. Currently there is no clearly identified ministerial department at the Federal or Provincial level responsible to direct government services for this essential sector of our economy. Without proper oversight, the sector also lacks reliable and comprehensive data to support research and evidence-based decision-making. In this regulatory vacuum, small and grass roots community service groups in BC have been forced to work in fierce competition for dwindling funding sources.
In the last six years at Vantage Point we have had the privilege to witness the incredible impact which comes with a focus on people and an investment in capacity building in the not-for-profit sector. We ask "who?" before "how much will it cost?", and always look for partnerships and collaborations across the province. Through this method, Vantage Point has delivered customized capacity building services, workshops, and consulting projects with a profound impact on not-for-profit leaders and their organizations:
Overall, the outcomes for Early Music Vancouver were everything we hoped for. We ended up with strong consensus of who we are, and what we are striving to achieve, all within a defined structure... This clarity and consensus have energized and galvanized our Board, Staff, and volunteers..."
Tim Rendell, Early Music Vancouver
In that time, we've seen our own capacity grow. In 2014 we engaged with 79 organizations in customized engagements. Last year we were able to support 169 organizations with individualized training or consulting services. With our growing exposure to the realities faced by so many not-for-profits in different sectors, it has become clear: a key dimension to a healthy not-for-profit sector is a healthy public policy environment. Which is why - beginning last year - we began working on a strategy to undertake policy advocacy with sector partners.
We are excited about the opportunities to bring forth the voice of the not-for-profit sector in our province. We know there are an abundance of opportunities to convene public dialogue and collaboration. A regulatory framework that supports not-for-profit groups is possible. At the same time, we acknowledge there is significant work ahead of us.
Over 116,000 employees2 and an estimated 3.1 million volunteers3 work to help deliver $6.1 billion in programs and services to the population. Not-for-profits are among BC's largest employers and should be able to receive similar services and taxation treatment set in place to support growth, innovation, and resilience among small business. Additionally, we must develop an environment which gives these organizations greater latitude to undertake revenue-generating activities to further their mandate. These actions will ultimately strengthen communities and help bring people together to address the critical challenges we face.
This is what we are working towards at Vantage Point: fair opportunities for growth in BC's not-for-profit sector and a stable environment for decent work. Want to be part of the change? Consider this a call to action: reach out to our team to be connected with a growing community of sector champions!
1Mercer, T., Ratna Omidvar. (2019). Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector. Ottawa, Ontario: Senate Special Committee on the Charitable Sector. 190.
2Statistics Canada. (2020). Table 36-10-0615-01 Employment in non-profit institutions by activity (x 1,000). Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.25318/3610061501-eng.
3Vancouver Foundation. (2019). Vital Signs Community Clusters: British Columbia. Vancouver, BC: Vancouver Foundation. Retrieved from https://vancouverfoundationvitalsigns.ca/reports/. Pg. 8.
4Image Credit: Photo by Peter Lewis on Unsplash.