I want to tell you a story…

We are pleased to share with you the following guest blog post written by the Executive Director of one of our member agencies, The Glenshiel.  Laurie Mueller recently attended our “Story Skills and Telling Tales” workshop facilitated by experienced storyteller Norma Cameron. 

I want to tell you a story about a Volunteer Victoria workshop I attended that was one of the highlights of my year.  Do you have time to read 600 words to learn about something wonderful? If so, please read on.

My mother was a great teller of tales.  I remember as a child listening to her make an ordinary situation turn into an exciting event as she retold it to friends and family.  I have always been fascinated by how well some people can capture our interest while others make me just want to nod off and go to sleep.   So it was with excitement that I signed up for the “Story Skills and Telling Tales” workshop.  A chance to learn how I can tell the stories of people that I work with in an exciting way just like my mom used to tell! It turns out that the group of about 30 had similar reasons for being there.

Our facilitator, Norma Cameron from The Narrative Company, skillfully taught us how to create a story that we could tell over and over again.  She started by teaching how to create the bare bones of our story.

A story needs a beginning, middle and an end.  Added to that we learned that there are components that make up the bones of the story and even if you tell the story many times but stick with the bones it doesn’t matter if some of the other details are added, forgotten or changed.  The story bones are created by following the story building guideline:

1. When and Where does your story start
2. Who
3. What happens
4. The So-What  (the climax)
5. The Now What

Before I went to the day-long workshop I did my homework.  I talked to some of the residents at The Glenshiel where I work.  I wanted to be able to tell their stories.  I asked them the questions to collect the data I would use to tell their stories.  Then I chose one that I would use.  Phew! Glad I did.  One of our first exercises of the day was to tell our tablemates in three minutes the bare bones of our stories. 

Norma took us through the theory, gave us some resources to pick up. I want to be sure to read “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink and I want to go back onto the TED website and listen to the talk that Ken Robinson gives about The Demise of Education.  I also want to download some of the  Ira Glass podcasts from iTunes. 

After lunch we visualized our story.  We closed our eyes and let Norma lead us into a space in which we could view our story.  I’m not a visual person (or so I thought) but I was seeing my story right from the beginning.  It really helped to embed the story into my mind and allowed me to relax later when I was retelling it.  That was a great exercise for those of us who are right brained.  And then into the left brain we marched.  We drew a chart!  Three columns if you please, labeled Where, Who, What Happens.  We took three parts of our story and mapped it out in our chart.  The next step is to draw pictures and story board the sequence. 

We did voice exercises. Singers do voice exercises so why shouldn’t story tellers do the same?  I just can’t imagine what my staff will think when they hear me singing “do, re, mi, re, do” and  “Meow, Meow, Meow” in my office just before I give a potential resident a tour and tell them our stories! 

And then it was the end of the day and we were telling our stories.  Wow! What a day!

Laurie Mueller, M.Ed is the Executive Director of The Glenshiel, a seniors heritage residence in downtown Victoria. She also has written ebooks and blogs. Another place that Laurie tells stories is on The Glenshiel Facebook page and she invites you to visit it.

Telling Your Organization’s Story

We recently held a very successful  “Story Skills and Telling Tales” day-long workshop, facilitated by Victoria-based storyteller Norma Cameron.  In this post, Norma herself gives readers some resources to turn to while learning how to tell your organization’s stories.

In 2005, after years of being a storyteller and a fundraising/communications consultant, I decided to marry these two pursuits and build more effective communication strategies and tools.  After all, a well-told story is the shortest distance between two people and telling your organization’s story is really no different than the stories we share with each other every day. 

However, it does require a wee bit of work.   First of all, you need to gather your organization’s history, mission and most of all – the positive impact it has on those it serves (proof of its “mission in action”).  Then, focus on choosing, gathering and telling the most convincing and compelling stories to your audience (could be future or current volunteers, staff or donors).  The goal of an impact story is to take others to the front lines of where your organization and its cause meet.  Choose the most emotionally-engaging way possible to tell these stories (using the most appropriate medium) to make your audience feel as though they are right there.  

Once you’ve covered the history and impact, your next task is to explain your future vision; paint a picture of what the community will look and feel like if your organization realized its mission (or current goal).  Don’t forget to include the journey and resources required to get there (highlights of your plan and your budget).  Next up, you need to articulate how your audience can help to achieve this future state…your “call to action” (in easy to follow steps).  In other words, place them in this story of success. 

In collecting this information, think about answering the following questions…Why is your organization the best at what it does? Why does it deserve support?  Is it a good steward of funds?  Develop your own set of questions – but in following the mantra of “show versus tell” distill and incorporate the answers into a handful of powerfully convincing and compelling tales…rather than simply listing these as facts. 

Over my 20+ years as a storyteller, I’ve learned that without a doubt, simplicity and authenticity wins out every time.   By mastering how to recognize, understand and tell authentic stories about your organization and its work (in plain language) – you’ll have the vital building blocks to create a powerful communication strategy.

As you may have noticed, there is a revival of interest in storytelling and as a result there are wonderful resources on this topic.  You can find lots of books, websites, blogs, etc. on many aspects of storytelling.  While there isn’t a book specifically on applying storytelling to non profit organizations (but I’m working on it), I’ve listed some of my favourite resources below.

And, don’t forget to seek out storytelling gatherings in your neck of the woods (check on the national website: http://www.sc-cc.com/) .  For example for those close to Victoria, why not drop into the next storytelling evening hosted by the Victoria Storytellers Guild, check out their website for dates/location: http://www.victoriastorytellers.org/

Learning the art of storytelling:
The Way of the Storyteller – Ruth Sawyer
Improving Your Storytelling – Doug Lipman
Suddenly They Heard Footsteps – Dan Yashinsky
Couple of website links on ingredients for good stories:
NPR’s Scott Simon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiX_WNdJu6w&feature=related
NPR’s Ira Glass (first part of four): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loxJ3FtCJJA

Storytelling for corporations:
The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling (or) The Springboard – Stephen Denning
The Story Factor (or) Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins – Annette Simmons
Your Client’s Story (specifically for financial advisors) – Scott West & Mitch Anthony

Gathering personal or family stories:
Telling Stories of Life through Guided Autobiography Groups:  James Birren & Kathryn N. Cochran
Writing About Your Life – William Zinsser
Storycatcher – Christina Baldwin

Focus on stories about/for women:
Women Who Run With the Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Inviting the Wolf In – Loren Niemi & Elizabeth Ellis
Composing a Life – Mary Catherine Bateson

Blending creativity (and the need to) in your work:
A Whole New Mind – Daniel H. Pink
And a great Ted Talks on this topic by Sir Ken Robinson: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
The Leader’s Edge – Charles J. Palus & David M. Horth

Best book ever – on using plain language in all you write/tell:
Death Sentences – Don Watson

Through her business, The Narrative Company, Norma Cameron works with clients across Canada as a fundraising and communications consultant, teacher and facilitator. She believes passionately in the need for clarity in vision, mission and goals, plain language in all communications and tapping into the unparalleled power of story to motivate teams and attract support.

Norma is part of the CAGP Teaching Faculty and as a speaker and seasoned storyteller; she has performed at conferences, concerts and festivals in Canada, the USA and the UK.  You can reach her at


State of the Non Profit Sector

Blackbaud recently released the results of a North American survey of over 2,200 non-profit organizations. This survey gathered data on general operations, fundraising, technology and accountability/stewardship to provide a snapshot of the sector in 2010 and to make projections for 2011. This survey has been carried out for 6 of the past 7 years. 

With regard to revenue generation, almost half of the organizations anticipated their total income would increase in 2010, while 25% expected their income to remain the same and 28% expected it to decrease. The projection for 2011 is more optimistic with 60% expecting an increase and 26% expecting no change. 

However, looking back at past survey results, the percentage of organizations expecting an increase in income has dropped from 77% in 2007 to 47% in 2010. 

Looking at total expenditures for the year, approximately 49% anticipated expenditures to increase, 27% expect no change and 23% expect a decrease. 

The results for staffing indicate that 53% of respondents expect no change in staffing levels in 2010, while 29% expect staffing to increase and 19% expect a decrease.

When compared to expectations for demand for service, however, the results show that over 70% of the respondents expect an increase in demand for service, while only 24% expect no change in demand and a mere 5% expect a decrease. 

These results highlight the fact that organizations are continuing to respond to greater service demands with limited staff and financial resources. 

Looking at funding, the sources of funding most frequently cited by respondents were Individual Donations (98%), Individual Donations from major giving (92%), Memberships (89%) and Government Grants (88%). Lowest were Special Events (53%) and Online Events (37%). 

For donor acquisition techniques, however, the respondents cited special events as the most frequently used method for reaching out to new donors (81%), followed by direct mail (73%). Social Networking was cited by only 43% of respondents. 

The survey also asked respondents to rank the importance of various business practices and then to rate their performance on those elements. Managing relationships with supporters and retaining current donors were ranked highest in importance at 9.2, with performance in those areas ranked at 7.5 (gap of 1.7 points). Recruiting new donors was ranked at 8.9 in importance and at 6.4 in performance (gap of 2.5 points). 

Other areas included staff retention at 8.2 in importance and 7.6 in performance and utilizing social media at 6.8 in importance and 5.4 in performance. 

With regard to technology, 72% of those surveyed had a technology budget. However, only 28% has a written technology plan and only 19% had a written online strategy. The use of online tools is common and increasing among those surveyed. Social tools tools are used by 68% of the respondents.

Building Better Boards

As most non-profit boards will shortly be regrouping after the summer hiatus, this seems like a good time to highlight board development resources. This list includes both on-line and print materials that can be accessed through Volunteer Victoria’s library.

A very good on-line source for board governance information is the Voluntary Sector Knowledge Network that includes an extensive selection of board materials, from board roles and responsibilities to the board – CEO relationship.

Another excellent resource is the HR Council for the Non Profit Sector Toolkit. The site covers the full spectrum of human resources in non profits, one section of which focuses on the board’s role within HR. This section also includes information on hiring an Executive Director.

Among the myriad articles available on board governance, Becoming a More Effective Nonprofit Board, produced by the respected US non-profit think-tank Bridgespan, is a good short read. The article highlights 4 key areas in which the board must have clarity: oversight, leadership, how the board does its work (people, culture, structures) and role in helping the organization create social change.

A very interesting article that explores the role of the Executive Director in facilitating board leadership is the Vantage Point article, Leading Leaders, by Colleen Kelly. This lighlights the importance of ED’s role in facilitating the development of creative boards with strong leadership capabilities.

Within Volunteer Victoria’s extensive library of publications on boards, Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards (Chait et al), provides a forward thinking perspective on the role of boards. Going beyond the traditional fiduciary and strategic roles, the book introduces a third dimension of effective trusteeship, generative governance.

Also in our library is The Management of Nonprofit and Charitable Organizations in Canada, second edition. Written by an expert team led by Vic Murray, our resident expert in Non Profit Management, this text provides a very comprehensive look at non-profits in Canada today. Written after the recent economic downtown, the book addresses these trends and the new realities that non-profit leaders face these days.

And for those who haven’t ever read anything on the Carver model of governance, the series of books by John Carver are worth a look. We have the full series in our library and titles range from Basic Principles of Board Governance to Strategies for Board Leadership.

In addition to the on-line and print selections referenced here, there is also an excellent little booklet (35 pages) produced by Deloitte & Touche that we include in our board orientation kit at Volunteer Victoria.

This practical guide covers everything from board mandate and responsibilities to building a more effective board.

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

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Embracing the Future – Leading for Change: Three perspectives.

Our sector, in fact all sectors are experiencing an era of profound change. In many ways, this is a period of great uncertainty. We are seeing new non-profit leaders emerging, and long-term leaders starting to transition out. Community leadership is also evolving and changing. While there are many challenges within this shifting environment, there are also opportunities. History has shown us that times of great change frequently spark new ideas, creative leadership and inspired vision.

Within this context, this year’s theme for our 35th anniversary Annual General Meeting emerged. Our three panellists (Beth Cougler Blom, Mitchell Temkin and Sandra Richardson) gave a brief glimpse toward the future as they each explored leadership and change from different perspectives.

If you were not able to attend our AGM this year, or even if you did, I think you will enjoy reading our presenters’ three perspectives. Links to each speech have been provided below.

Our first panellist, and our Manager of Training and Outreach Beth Cougler Blom, spoke on the recent creation of our Emerging Leaders Network. She shed some light on what local emerging leaders think about sector leadership and the path to get there. You can view her speech and bio here.

Mitchell Temkin, Vice-President of Leadership Victoria’s board, was our second panellist. He addressed the topic of community leadership and highlighted five related aspects of community leadership that he feels will be important in the years to come. You can view his speech and bio here.

Our final panellist, Sandra Richardson, CEO of the Victoria Foundation, provided her insights on sector leadership. She shared her thoughts on the new reality the sector is facing (not just economically, but demographically, technologically and socially) and the impact of emerging trends. You can view her speech and bio here.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our panellists for sharing their time and insights with us. You have given us much ‘food for thought’.

I will close with this one (of many) insightful comments shared by our panel:

In order for non-profits to survive and thrive “we must become futurists – not predicting the future, but being attuned to rapid and continued shifts in the environment, continually evaluating and interpreting how organizations can best adapt. It means experimenting…and a willingness to take risks. We can not afford to rest on our laurels, assuming that the old ways of doing business will continue to serve us in this dramatically new and ever-changing environment… It is our responsibility to envision and shape the future for ourselves, our organizations and thus, our community.”


Tell us what you think!  Share your thoughts on sector, community and emerging leadership with us.

AGM Awards

Volunteer Victoria welcomed over 80 guests (funders, supporters, member agencies, Coordinators of Volunteers, etc) to celebrate our35th Annual General Meeting on June 24th. The agenda consisted of a delicious breakfast, guest speakers, agency awards and ended with a brief meeting. The theme for the day was Embracing the Future – Leading for Change.      

Sandra Richardson (Victoria Foundation) presented Val Green (Volunteer Victoria) with a plaque recognizing our accomplishments over the past 35 years and thanking Volunteer Victoria for ‘giving heart to our community for 35 years’.      

Each year our Youth Program Coordinator and Access Program Coordinator present Agency Awards to dedicated leaders working with our member agencies. These leaders are chosen for their continuous demonstration of excellence in communication, leadership and accommodation through excellence in volunteer management.      

The following are this year’s outstanding awardees:

Brian Del Raye – Recreation Therapist, Selkirk Place (presented by Lornna Olson, Access Program Coordinator)

It is Brian’s job as the Recreation Therapist to find volunteers to help with the many programs available for the seniors that reside at Selkirk Place. Already working with a high needs population, Brian is open to accommodating volunteers that may require some extra guidance. He is always timely to respond to inquires about volunteering, and always willing to give a tour of the facilities to potential volunteers. Volunteers from our Youth ProgramAccess Program and Employer Supported Volunteer Program have all been welcomed and supported under Brian’s direction. Brian works with a pool of approximately 25 volunteers and 8 recreational therapy staff to service the 250 seniors living at Selkirk Place. 

Lornna presents Certificate of Excellence to Brian.
Recently Brian was willing to take a second look at a potential volunteer from the Access program who was dealing with a misunderstood circumstance that was making it difficult for her to be placed as a volunteer.  Because of Brian’s understanding this volunteer has had the opportunity to prove herself and this connection has been a very important part of her recovery. 

Catriona Campbell – Coordinator of Volunteers, James Bay Community Project (presented by Lornna Olson, Access Program Coordinator)       

This is the second time Catriona has been honored with this award in the 15 years that she has been connected with James Bay Community Project (3 years on the board prior to 12 years as Coordinator of Volunteers). This community health care centre serves approximately 350 people a day. Catriona organises 250 volunteers, 50 of them being  community living volunteers. Last year her volunteers worked a total of 18,800 volunteer hours.    We can count on Catriona’s openness and acceptance of all types of volunteers. She is always very clear about her volunteer needs and always willing to give an interview.   If the position in question has already been filled, or if she feels that the fit might not work, Catriona is able to think outside the box to tailor a potential position that might fit more within the volunteer’s abilities.    

Recently a client of Volunteer Victoria’s Access Program expressed interest in a pruning position at the project, but due to anxiety didn’t think that he wanted to be around crowds. Catriona suggested that this client come to prune the trees when the project was closed –to avoid having to be around people. Eventually the volunteer felt welcome enough that he could be comfortable inside the building and eventually expressed interest in volunteering directly with members of the project.       

Gillian Rowan – Recreation Services Team Leader, Burnside Gorge Community Association (presented by Tara MacDonald, Youth Program Coordinator)

Gillian has been working at Burnside Gorge Community Association, as the Team Leader in Recreation Services for the past 2 years. She runs about 30 recreation activities and also coordinates the numerous special events hosted by BGCA. Last year, Gillian organized 5 special events and managed over 700 volunteers. Gillian demonstrates excellence in leadership, communication and accommodation as she welcomes volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.  She encourages youth to get involved and she genuinely appreciates the energy and positive attitude they bring to the events. She also encourages families, people with special needs and new Canadians to come and get involved in their community through volunteering. Gillian recognizes the great value a diverse pool of volunteers can add to an event.

  Tara presents Certificate of Excellence award to Gillian  

Gillian also recruits non-event volunteers to support her work at the centre. When she needs help with something, and may not have the expertise or the time to do it, she will create a volunteer posting seeking help.  For example, when Gillian needed to create promotional materials, she recruited a graphic designer. When she needs office support, she recruits an administration volunteer and when she required help with her website, she recruited a webmaster who works for a local tech company and is delighted to offer her skills in a volunteer capacity.Volunteers who work with Gillian are welcomed with a warm smile and enjoy a meaningful and positive volunteer experience. 

To all our supporters, funders, Coordinators of Volunteers and members, past and present, the staff at Volunteer Victoria thank you for your support over the past 35 years.

Val Green, Lornna Olson, Tara MacDonald, Beth Cougler-Blom, Liz Belsten, Lori Elder, Bonnie Van Volkenburg. Missing: Louise Keith

(Photos by Snap Victoria)

Charities and the HST Rebate

On July 1, 2010 the HST will come into effect in BC (can anyone have missed this with all the media coverage it has received).

For charities and some non-profits (those receiving more than 40% of their revenue from the province) who currently receive a GST rebate, this will mean a change in the rebate calculation.

The province has set the PST portion of the HST rebate at 57% for charities. Thus when paying an invoice, the rebate will be calculated by taking 57% of the 7% PST portion and 50% of the 5% GST portion (as you do currently) and adding these together.

A quick look at the CRA website indicates that the rebate form, Application for GST/HST Public Service Bodies’ Rebate, has not yet been updated. This form is only filed twice a year, at the mid point and end of a charity’s fiscal year, so charities will need to check the CRA site when their next rebate filing date comes up.

The Government of Canada number to contact for questions about GST / HST is 1.800.959-5525. For specific questions about the rebate form the number is 1.800.565.9353.Websites that provide additional information and bulletins about the HST include:

BC Government – Rebates for Public Bodies and Charities

CRA – Goods and services tax/harmonized sales tax (GST/HST) checklist for charities

CRA – HST Information Sheets (under Quick Links, click on Charities & Public Institutions)

CRA – HST for British Columbia

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

Announcing a new Emerging Leaders Network in Victoria

Volunteer Victoria has recently received funding to develop and manage an Emerging Leaders Network for younger nonprofit professionals in Greater Victoria.  This exciting new initiative, created by and for the “next generation” of nonprofit leaders, will offer them opportunities to participate in leadership-focused networking and professional development events and will engage them in mentoring relationships with current nonprofit leaders.

Volunteer Victoria has been co-leading a network for Executive Directors of nonprofit organizations for many years, but there has never been a networking group available to younger emerging leaders in the sector.  Many late 20 to early 40-somethings are already being recruited into middle management positions and are looking to the future.  They are extremely interested in increasing connections with their peers and developing learning relationships with more senior leaders.  Fostering these types of relationships will be a particular focus of the Emerging Leaders Network.

It’s no secret that many Executive Directors in the nonprofit sector will be transitioning to retirement in the next two to five years, creating huge leadership gaps.  But who will fill those gaps?  Some Generation X’ers are currently looking at the Executive Director role with a wary eye.  Although this demographic has a keen interest in career development and upward mobility, they also have a stronger tendency to value flexibility and work/life balance than their Boomer predecessors.  And today’s emerging leaders just aren’t sure whether the ED role – the way it looks now – is something that they want to fill. 

Events to be offered under this new network will show younger nonprofit professionals that there are many ways to be a leader within the sector and will help them develop the skills needed to get there.  Network activities will also aim to help current Boomer leaders understand the unique needs of the generation succeeding them, a crucial element in succession planning.

Emerging leaders in the Greater Victoria area will soon be invited to attend the Network’s first bi-monthly networking session and be able to sign up for an online community to connect with their peers.  For more information about these and other activities planned for the Emerging Leaders Network, contact Beth Cougler Blom at Volunteer Victoria at beth@volunteervictoria.bc.ca.

Fundraising in Challenging Economic Times

“What’s happening isn’t going to get better – that’s what we all believe. It might even get worse.”

Those were the cautionary words of fundraising expert Judy Lightwater when she gave the workshop, “Fundraising in Challenging Economic Times”, to a group of Volunteer Victoria’s member agencies this past March. She was talking about the state of our economy and the significant impact it has had on the ability of nonprofit agencies to seek out and receive funding from external sources. “You have to be even more concise than you used to be,” Lightwater advised, referring to the way agencies write funding proposals. She told the group that the most important question to address is: “What’s the need and what are you doing about it?”, and advised that including hard numbers in proposed project outcomes is absolutely essential.

The message came across loud and clear from Lightwater that nonprofit leaders need to be very familiar, off the top of their heads, with what their agencies need in terms of money, per project. If agencies don’t know themselves where they stand financially, then they will not be able to accurately reflect this need to potential funders. Lightwater also noted that it is crucial for agencies to collect and become very familiar with their own clients’ impactful stories that can be shared with potential funders, the media, or other possible supporters. She advised that nonprofits should “never assume that people know what you do” and recommended that we find a teenager to share our “elevator pitch” with to see if they understand it. (Lightwater’s grandson has been very helpful in this regard!) If the teenager in question doesn’t understand the message, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and revise the pitch until it works.

Lightwater also talked about the importance of having fundraising professionals as part of our organizations, even if only on a part-time basis. She suggested that a fundraiser should be able to raise monies for their organization equal to ten times what they make in salary. And, while it may seem obvious to some, Judy also noted that an agency’s fundraising person has to be able to ask for money: “If you don’t ask, people won’t give.”

Finally, Lightwater advised our member agencies that concerned individuals form the best group of potential donors. “Spend time with them, build relationships, ask for advice, and the money will follow.” Lightwater says that we have no evidence of a lack of money in our community, only a shortage of asks that are based upon informed and conscious relationships with those who want to help.

Additional tips from this workshop included:

  • Spend most of your time seeking funds from groups and individuals that bring you the most money. “Spend your time where the most revenue resides.”
  • Think about letting go of your fundraising events, because they usually don’t make money (once you add up all the staff time spent in organizing them, as well as other budget items). 
  • Invest in your local community foundation, e.g. The Victoria Foundation. They have donors that might be interested in investing in your organization if you invest with the foundation. 
  • Remain conscious of the language you use in funding proposals, as some terms can be unclear or over-used. Lightwater’s “groan” list at this workshop included the following terms: resources, access, issues, needs, day program, awareness, and support. 
  • Place your “Donate” button front and centre on every page of your website. Use social media tools to capture new audiences.
  • Organize a joint donor and volunteer appreciation night, and don’t even mention fundraising.

Imagine Canada – Sector Monitor

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

A Sector Monitor recently released by Imagine Canada provides useful information on the issues facing the non-profit sector at the current time.
This first report, which summarizes the responses of over 1,500 leaders of registered charities across the country, is intended as a baseline for future sector surveys. The purpose of these monitors is to identify trends that will inform thinking and decision making around the sector.
Not surprisingly, the findings show that almost half of the organizations surveyed are facing increased service demands and are having difficulty meeting their mission. Close to a third expect to have difficulty covering expenses in 2010 and nearly a quarter say their existence is at risk.
These organizations are also experiencing high levels of stress. The charities with the highest levels of stress are those in BC and small charities with a budget of less than $150,000.  Conversely, the charities least likely to be under stress are in the Prairies and Quebec, as well as charities with budgets over $1.5 million.
The charities indicated they have taken a range of actions in order to address these funding challenges. Of these, the most common response was to try and increase revenues and reduce overhead. Additionally, more than half of the organizations had increased reliance on volunteers. A quarter of those surveyed had reduced services, two-fifths used reserve funds and a quarter had reduced staffing/hours.

Both charities and foundations were surveyed and the findings show differences between the two groups. Charities were most impacted by decreases in government revenues while foundations were most impacted by decreases in investment income. Although foundations experienced a greater drop in revenues, they were more able to control expenditures. Staff and volunteer levels were also more stable in foundations.
An interesting finding is that charities remain confident about the future when they look further down the road. More than a quarter expect to be better able to fulfill their mission within 3-4 months and two-fifths expect to be in a better position within 1 year. Foundations are more optimistic than charities about their ability to fulfill their mission in the short and medium term. 
While this is not what we are seeing and hearing from the sector in BC, where the full economic impact is being experienced this fiscal year, the survey was conducted across Canada. Charities in other parts of the country may now be moving toward recovery. Also, the survey included foundations who are more dependent on the market, which is now starting to recover. 

Excerpted from Imagine Canada’s Sector Monitor. Download this report.

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

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