May 21, 2024

#8 - Sharing My Top 3 Strategic Priorities for The Charity Sector

In the previous blog I suggested that our charity sector needs a holistic strategic plan to help optimize the allocation of efforts towards the highest priorities for the sector.    Until that plan is developed, it might be useful to start a discussion to gauge reactions to what might be relevant or not.  

To respect the true meaning of setting priorities, only a few key items can be presented.   Outlining dozens of problems works to distract, overwhelm, and dilute efforts.  Here are my top three initiatives I believe are most important: (1)  Bring in more resources; (2) Strengthen staffing and ability to deliver charitable services; and (3) Improve efficiency/efficacy of delivery.

1.     To address the growing charity gap, and to reverse the decline in giving in Canada, we need to encourage greater generosity among all targets.

•       To state the obvious, we are not going to suddenly see a radical transformation across all levels of government where all needs for charitable services disappear.  So, recognizing our realities, we need to strengthen the inflow of resources from those outside of government. We need more philanthropy, charitable giving, volunteering and greater generosity.  

•       Since religious people are more generous, the decline of religiosity in Canada challenges the future of the charity sector and needs to be overcome. We need to learn what it is  about religions which drive the greater generosity and then replicate it elsewhere. We likely need to establish on-going triggers for giving, to build communities of giving, to mentor greater generosity, to emphasize prosocial responsibilities, and to help establish a stronger social norm of giving. (To get an initial insight on the influence of religiosity, see this recent Canadian research study:

•       It might be a good idea to use some of the Sector Fund to partner with other organizations and marketing agencies to develop and deliver an on-going ‘generosity’ campaign.  This would be akin to ParticipACTION (for greater exercise), but for greater generosity.

•       It should also be said that it is inappropriate to increase charity tax incentives to incent greater giving since this is both expensive to the public purse and because generosity is more strongly influenced by culture than it is by tax credits. - For example, Quebec has the highest charity tax credits of all provinces, but has the lowest level of charitable giving per capita.

•       By helping to reverse the negative trend in giving, it will lead to hundreds of millions of additional dollars for the charity sector, annually. This would be a very positive ‘return on investment’.

2.     To help deliver more charitable services, we need to invest in, train, and retain more motivated staff and volunteers.  We need to enhance the supply.

•       We need programs to make Canadians aware of the need and the opportunity to work in the charity sector, as paid staff and/or as volunteers.

•       We need to make it easier for volunteers to find what interests and rewards them.

•       We need fair compensation for paid staff, with attractive HR policies and practices.   The vast majority of charities do not have HR departments so it might be useful to establish a “central, universal HR hub” for the sector (?)

•       We need to defend the rationale for ‘overhead costs’ (as per “Uncharitable” by Dan Pallotta).

•       It might even be interesting to allow (underpaid) staff in the charity sector to be able to claim a tax credit (say, 10% of their salary as reported on the T4s), up to some maximum (perhaps $3,000-$5,000).  This would help attract more staff to the charity sector, for the benefit of all those in need.

•       Perhaps corporations can register for staff volunteering, with a certain portion of staff time volunteered for charitable purposes earning tax credits (?)


3.     Since it is hard to optimize something which is not well measured, we need better data measurement, and better dissemination of best-practices to all 85,000 registered charities in Canada. We need to help charities become better.

•        Perhaps we need a ‘central knowledge hub’ to help teach and host best-practices for the sector? Something akin to the “What Works Network” in the UK. – This could include free webinars, shared insights in social media, support of academic philanthropy studies, and so on.  

•      At the sector level, we need to better measure all acts of generosity, the value of each type of behaviour, and how each type of behaviour is trending.  This will help indicate which types are important and which need greater support (and in which way).

There are many other important initiatives being pursued in the charity sector.  I do not mean to detract from them.  However, if we are to be strategic and most effective in how sector resources are allocated, we need to prioritize.    What other priorities do you think are most relevant to the beneficiaries (i.e. those in need)?   Anything to add to the above??

The next blog will share a couple of ideas for a longer-term evolution for the current charity sector (into being a 'social sector').  As they say, the future starts today, so time to get on it is NOW.

Would you like future posts?

Subscribe and we will send you our next blog posts & initiatives!

* indicates required

Intuit Mailchimp

Keep reading

Signup to
our newsletter

* indicates required

Intuit Mailchimp