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Imagine Canada

Strong Charities. Strong Communities.

Support your team! Get on the field, play hard, and Stretch!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Public Policy

You’ve no doubt heard about our campaign to reach as many MPs as possible regarding the Stretch Tax Credit for Charitable Giving. We’ve been asking you to get in touch with your MP, to let them know about the Stretch and why it’s important — for your organization and for people in your community.

It’s one thing for Imagine Canada to advocate for the Stretch. We’ve been doing that ever since charity leaders flagged it as a top priority at the 2011 National Summit. And we’ve moved the yardsticks, a lot. We really believe that we’ve got a golden opportunity to see the Stretch happen in the 2015 federal budget. We’re on the homestretch, you might say.  

But the Stretch won’t happen without a team effort.

The Stretch Tax Credit proposal was developed by the sector and for the sector. It has the potential to increase the value of donations and number of donors for all charities, regardless of size, location, or scope. That’s why we need you to get involved. Show your MP that the Stretch has tangible benefits in their constituency. Let them know how your donors would benefit, and what more you would be able to do in your community if your donations went up.

Playing the game is actually pretty easy.

If you’ve not met with or written to your MP before, don’t let this stop you. The Stretch campaign provides you with a great reason to establish a relationship with your MP, enabling you to introduce your organization and the work you do. And, the best part is that there really isn’t anything overly complicated about it. We’ve created a number of tips and tools to help you make contact, including a model letter that you can adapt. 

Knowing the rules of the game can help you be more confident on the field.

Meeting with your MP is fair game! Over the last few months we’ve all heard a lot about political activity and the CRA. It has caused some to be afraid of engaging at all in advocacy efforts. Remember, though, that meeting with or writing to your MP is charitable activity and does NOT qualify as political activity. The meeting or written communication becomes political activity only if you use it in a public call to political action, asking others to urge a government to retain, oppose, or change a law, policy, or decision. Publicizing that you’ve had a meeting, or releasing the text of the letter, generally isn’t political activity unless you’re asking others to act on the information.

Even where there is political activity, this is completely legal and legitimate provided ALL of your political activity for the year doesn’t use up more than 10% of your resources, and remains non-partisan. (Saying you support or don’t support Policy X is perfectly fine. Saying you do or don’t support Political Party X or Politician X would be prohibited partisan activity.)

Because this blog post contains a call to action (ie. we encourage you to contact your MP), it counts towards Imagine Canada’s political activity. Therefore, we have taken note of the time and resources used to develop the blog post so that we can report on it accurately to CRA through the T3010.

Help us get the Stretch past the goal line.

By now we hope our sports analogies have convinced you to help us win the game. Below, are a few similarly styled tips to keep in mind when communicating with your MP.

  • Schedule your games in advance. MPs are generally happy to make time for constituents and community leaders, but they’ve got incredibly busy schedules. Call or email the office as far ahead of time as you can. Most MPs are in their constituencies on Fridays and weekends, and the House doesn’t sit the weeks of October 13 and November 10, so those are good times to aim for.
  • Have a captains’ meeting. It’s best to agree on the terms of engagement before you play. When you ask for a meeting, be clear on what your purpose is. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have an introductory meeting, if you don’t already have a relationship. But if you’ve got a specific issue you want to talk about — whether it’s a policy idea like the Stretch, or a funding application you haven’t heard back on — let the staff know so that they have the context and can do some background work.
  • Be goal oriented. The best athletes keep their eyes on the prize. If you’re going in to talk about a problem, be ready to propose a solution. If you don’t have an answer to “What do you want me to do about it?” then you probably shouldn’t be raising the issue in the first place.
  • Get scouted. Take the opportunity to establish a relationship, if you don’t have one already. Invite the MP to an upcoming event, or to tour your operation. MPs thrive on being seen in the community; most often they will appreciate the opportunity to attend your event.
  • Cheer loudly. Let your supporters know what you’re doing. Get onto our Stretch campaign map, share a picture, post something on social media, show everyone you’re a player.
  • Sub-on-the-fly. Flexibility and adaptability are key to most sports. Weather changes, turf conditions, or injuries can all impact a game. The advocacy field is quite similar. If there’s a last minute glitch and the MP can’t make it, don’t take offence. Meet with the staff — they do a lot of the legwork, and tend to have more time.
  • Always shake hands. Good sportsmanship is essential to any athletic endeavor. Don’t forget to say thanks!

Ready. Set. Go!

Imagine Canada will be testifying before the House of Commons Finance Committee on October 21. When we talk to the Committee about the Stretch, we need to demonstrate that an impressive number of their colleagues have heard from the sector. We need you to get on the map now. Other sectors are actively lobbying their MPs and, as we all know, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The Finance Committee is far more likely to recommend the Stretch if they hear about it from other MPs, which means those MPs have to hear about it from you. Like any team, we’ll be most effective if we work together. Now let’s get on the field and play hard!

See www.imaginecanada.ca/thestretch for more tips, tricks, and information on the Stretch Tax Credit Campaign.

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