“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
– Newt Gingrich
As we round the corner on the first quarter of 2016, the shiny optimism of a New Year is tempered with the day to day reality of achieving progress on our key objectives. With a new government in Ottawa, expectations have been running high. A new strategy for Imagine Canada has the organization poised to focus on starts and stops – new deliverables to be achieved and familiar items being wound down. In both cases, matching expectations and success is a longer term process.
It is grunt work time.
That time to roll up the sleeves, do the fundamentals well and move forward on each and every area in a manner that provides great value and continues to advance our collective interests.
On the first ‘State of the Sector’ webinar (please join us next January for the second!), we talked about our perspectives on the Liberal government, a look at the economy and, finally, what you can expect in the near term from Imagine Canada.
1. A New Day in Ottawa
The public posting of the mandate letters to each Cabinet Minister has made the initial days of the Liberal government quite interesting. Sector leaders are able to zero in on Ministers and departments that have been charged with the task of working on issues related to social good. It is exciting to see items such as a Youth Service Program, a Social Finance and Social Innovation Strategy, Social Infrastructure, modernizing and clarifying the rules governing political activity and advocacy by charities – a look at data and a commitment “to develop a modernized regulatory and legal framework” for charities and nonprofits, all included in the mandate letters.
Of course, this is where the hard work begins. The recent Federal Budget didn’t advance any of these areas. Sector leaders are mobilizing to move issues related to social good into the priority areas for the government.
2. Economic Outlook
Economic performance has slowed, with growth for 2016 now forecast at about 1.2%, down from the previous decade’s average of 2.2% and the Canadian dollar has fallen sharply relative to the US dollar. This should stimulate export growth and dampen imports it may also and provide some stimulus to inflation. Interest rates remain at or near historic lows, but inflationary pressure could lead to some upward movement, leading to some suggestions of an impending correction in the housing market.
What does this all mean for the charitable sector?
Reduced GDP growth will impact charities revenues. Paradoxically, even though growth in revenue to charities will slow, demand for the services charities provide will continue to increase and even accelerate. This is not a temporary phenomenon.
Lower economic growth is expected to be a long term reality, the demands on charities driven by demography and slower economic growth will continue to accelerate and the outlook is for a persistent struggle with financial sustainability. This is a challenge that will require a profound rethinking of the relationship between charities, governments and donors if we are to sustain the just and caring society that Canadians value so highly.
3. Strategy and Deliverables
While examining the macro issues facing the sector, Imagine Canada is embarking on a new journey. Armed with a Strategic Planning Framework that will guide the organization’s efforts for the next decade, Imagine Canada is making choices about where it will focus and dedicate its resources. In the coming weeks and months, sector organizations can expect to see activity in numerous areas related to the four Strategic Directions:
Ensure our Relevance
- The results of the most recent Sector Monitor polling, that garnered almost 2,000 responses, will be released in the spring. The topic was political activities and the information from sector leaders will help to inform much work going forward.
- The Personal Philanthropy Project, a research and design initiative focused on the giving attitudes and behaviours of the ‘mass affluent’, moves into the testing phase. Sector leaders can expect to see a deliverable of fund development ‘approaches’ that have been tested and evaluated with information scheduled to be made available in 2017.
Amplify our Voice
- One element of the new strategy involves focus. Recently Imagine Canada announced that two of its digital properties, Charity Focus and the T3010 Quick Prep would be retired. This will allow for the dedication of resources to other areas.
- This area represents a significant strategic shift for Imagine Canada – moving from a Business to Business organization to one that has a strong Business to Consumer thrust. Imagine Canada intends to enter into a long term process of engaging with and communicating to Canadians on some of the large issues facing social good organizations. Plans are being built that will enable a an ongoing presence in the marketplace.
Elevate our Excellence
- With trust levels in charitable organizations at a high level but showing signs of weakness, this strategic direction is focussed on the main effort aim at enhanced organizational performance – the Standards Program.
- It is our intention to do two things – grow the Standards Program from its current level of 167 approved organizations and market the trustmark to Canadians. We intend to make the Standards Program the recognized brand for good governance, transparency and accountability in Canada.
Influence our Environment
- With new strategy in place, we are now excited to be moving to a new working group/network model for the development of public policy. In the coming weeks, we will be activating our first working group and begin the process of engaging with public policy practitioners in the sector.
- A number of activities are ongoing, such as meetings with senior level government officials and political representatives, as well as connecting with sector leaders about common goals and aligned tactics.
There is much hard work to do – much hard work that seems repetitive. But that’s okay!
Whether we are attempting to positively affect public policy or inviting Canadians to think differently about important issues related to social good, we are in it for the long haul.
Good thing we love the grunt work.