After 12 years at the Ontario
Trillium Foundation, CEO Robin
Cardozo will move in April to the chief operating officer role at Toronto's
SickKids Foundation. In January, he
shared his views on the sector's changes and challenges with Hilborn eNEWS.
eNEWS What would you
most like to say to the nonprofit sector?
RC We make an incredibly powerful economic impact, especially
when you include the leveraged impact of donations and volunteer hours. As
governments, donors and corporations think about resources, we need to continue
reminding them that investment in the sector isn't about feel-good. It's about
eNEWS What's the
biggest change you've seen in the nonprofit sector during your time at OTF?
RC The sector is much more mature. In the 24 years since I
started with United Way I've seen
major growth. I remember when many charities looked to government funders for
their ongoing support. They weren't terribly innovative in resource development
or programming. Now I see a huge degree of increasing self-reliance,
particularly with revenue generation as well as program innovation. It speaks
well for the future of the sector.
There are challenges too, of course. There will never be
enough revenue to do everything we want to do. But the trend towards innovation
is very encouraging.
We're making progress on collaboration as well. In general
there's more openness, but I would say we still have some distance to go. I
would like to think OTF has played a major role in that. We ask about it in
every grant application -who you might you work with, who else is doing similar
work. Now organizations come to us in groups of two to five, having already
thought through how they'll work together.
eNEWS Are arms-length
foundations like OTF the best way for governments to support nonprofits?
RC OTF is unique in the way it works. At Imagine Canada's Summit we kept hearing how other provinces envied
Ontario. The province's government deserves a lot of credit for its vision of
how to support the sector. OTF has been funded at increasing levels in spite of
growing, competing demands. I wouldn't be so bold as to say the OTF model is
the best, but it's highly effective because of the role of community volunteers
in grant decisions.
eNEWSWhat about OTF are you proudest of?
RC Two particular areas of success for OTF have been its
support for innovation and the operational success it's achieved through its people.
We've supported a growing number of organizations like Evergreen, The Stop and Eva's Phoenix
that blend nonprofit work and social enterprise. We're good at identifying and
supporting those trends.
And with our operations, everything OTF achieves is with
other people. It starts with our ability to hire and retain superb staff across
the province. Our terrific, committed community volunteers are equally
important. They believe in our mission and want to invest government funds
thoughtfully and wisely.
eNEWS Would you like
to comment on the federal government's relationship with and views of the
nonprofit sector, especially in light of the cuts to CIDA and the recent
messaging around "foreign charities hijacking" the Keystone pipeline hearings?
RC We need to focus on what we can do in the medium and long
term. I'm struck by blogs and articles and some politicians' remarks. There's
not a wide understanding of the sector's work. We could do a better job of
helping politicians, media and the general public understand the sector's
value. Such a large portion of the population is engaged in the sector as
volunteers. They can build understanding about the sector's value because they
won't be seen as driven by self-interest.
eNEWS You've worked in
both fundraising and grantmaking. What advice would you give to people who want
to make significant changes in their career track?
thing I've observed in the sector is that from a values perspective, there's a
high degree of similarity among nonprofits. Staff and volunteers alike bring
strong values that include commitment to communities, a generous approach
towards collaboration, an openness to donations, and an interesting perspective
on innovation because there are never enough resources. Those skills are useful
wherever one is in the sector.