What can we say about 2016? According to many pop culture outlets and news reports, 2016 was declared the worst year ever even before it finished. It included the loss of many cherished celebrities, Brexit, the USA election (depending on your viewpoint), the continuing Syrian refugee crisis, a Summer Olympic games with Olympic challenges, Zika, Standing Rock, and the list goes on. With that said, there have been incredible moments and accomplishments among the challenges that we shouldn’t forget. Let’s take a look at the year through the lens of the charitable sector with a review of our 2016 blogs.
Responding to Current Events
We kicked off the year with a robust debate about Philanthrocapitalism following Mark Zuckerburg and Dr. Priscilla Chan’s announcement to commit 99% of their Facebook stocks ($45 billion worth) to launching charitable initiatives. To respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, the Government of Canada expedited the settlement of thousands and many charities and nonprofits took on a very important role. When the first federal budget by a new government was tabled, the charitable sector and what we have to offer was largely absent. In June, many in the world were astonished by the outcome of the Brexit vote which left us to ponder the ripple effects.
The Evolving Nonprofit Workplace
Human resources and leadership topics are popular with our blog readers. Important for many boards is the performance review of executive directors and how to navigate succession planning. As Canada becomes a more culturally diverse society we need to be intentional that this is represented within our workforce and we’re taking the needed steps. Whether in executive roles or other positions in an organization, how leaders approach their work as it relates to their self can make them and their organizations better. As we look at developing future leaders in the sector, we need to break the myths surrounding young people and nonprofit work.
To Communicate and Protect
Marketing communications can have a wide range of responsibilities and goals in a charity or nonprofit. Often marketing is lumped together with fundraising and that can hold organizations back. The sector is continually discovering that through evolving the role of marketing communications it can help missions thrive. Getting tactical, we need to catch the attention of our stakeholders and have our impact understood which can be done through data visualization. While we may be good at our marketing communicators we may not always be the best at protecting our intellectual property.
Fundraising, Funders and Fundraisers
Imagine Canada’s Grant Connect celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and hosted Sector Social events discussing the future of philanthropy in Toronto, Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver. Grant Connect continues to connect causes to like-minded funders and make the job of a fundraiser a bit easier. We began the year with resolutions to get fundraisers off to a great start. An important part of the grant application process is the ability to summarize and ‘sell’ your project to a funder in a letter of intent. And, even before you begin the grant application process, one must understand what funders are looking for. Overhead, yes that. Definitions of overhead can change from funder to funder and grantseekers need to know how to incorporate overhead into asks. What about the fundraisers? The introverts in the profession have a lot to offer!
Public Policy, Advocacy and a Network
As the year started with a new federal government, the focus on effective policy advocacy became top of mind for organizations and some looked for additional inspiration to be creative with policy asks. One surprise of the year was the cancelation of capital gains exemption for donated private company shares and land, especially at a time when we strive for a tax environment to motivate and encourage donors. Over the past few years, there has been a seemingly constant focus on charities involved in political activities audits. This year, our policy and research teams took a look at how this chill affected other charities and how well charities report their political activities. In order to tap into the expertise and energy across the country, Imagine Canada has shifted to a new policy network as a way of achieving more by working together. The enthusiasm for the new network model was seen when more than three dozen sector leaders visited Parliament Hill to advocate for a better operating environment for charities.
Guest writers, sharing insights and perspectives
In order to share perspectives from across the sector, we focused on incorporating thought leadership pieces and how-to articles from a number of guest writers (contributions highlighted throughout this blog review). This allows us to talk about different topics and to engage a variety of experts. We were able to dive into looking at what it would mean for an organization to open up their board meetings to outside participants and to help boards with their risk management obligations. And, we also got to look at volunteering in different ways including how to utilize high-skilled pro bono support and how to recruit volunteers who are already in your networks.
State of the Sector and the Future of Charities
We work to anticipate the future of Canadian society and the evolving world in order to help the sector adapt and even lead in times of continual change. Imagine Canada is armed with a new strategic framework to guide our efforts for the next decade. Early in the year, our Chief Economist looked at conditions that predict stormy skies for the sector, and then later, projected a social deficit of $23 billion in 2026. However, a bright light is that Canada is doing well in the broad quality of life compared to the rest of the world and charities definitely have a role in that. When it comes to Canadians and their trust in charities, organizations need to focus on impact but also look at ways to be open and transparent in their operations to win both hearts and minds.
Many of us may still be part of a collective global sigh of relief as the clock ticks past 11:59pm on New Year’s Eve into 2017. But let’s remember that even with a challenging year we have much to be proud of and to celebrate when it comes to the sector’s accomplishments.
We look forward to staying connected and working with all of you as we move forward! Happy New Year!