Op Ed | The public needs a charity sector reality check

publication date: Jul 27, 2020
author/source: Eliza Olson

Bruce MacDonald, President & CEO, Imagine Canada, pointed out the need for change within the charitable community. I whole heartedly agree. Funders (that’s you and me) need to understand that their gifts going towards administration are needed and valuable. As one person put it when a potential funder stated that none of her gift was to go to administration, the potential recipient replied, “We can do that. But the doctors and nurses will have to operate in the dark.”

The idea that charities can operate on air needs to change. After all, charities are a big contributor to our economy and the quality of life in our communities. Just take a moment and look around your community. Who built the playground park? Who offered opportunities for work to people with challenges? Who helped build the boardwalk you enjoy? Who helped fund your local hospital?

People giving to a political party get a better tax break than someone giving to a charity. In my view, they should be at least equal or greater for a charitable gift.

Strata corporations are expected to set aside a percentage of their annual budget in a contingency or “rainy day fund.” Non-profits are penalized if they set aside self-restricted funding for a rainy day. This is one reason why so many charities and non-profits are struggling during this pandemic. This needs to change.

It is often stated that a charity can stretch a dollar to the equivalent of $4.00 (four dollars). That’s because volunteers give so much of their time. Not everything can be accomplished by volunteers. Staff are needed to supervise volunteers, manage your gifts and ensure that your gift is used wisely. Where would these volunteers go if there were no charity to embrace them?

Charities and non-profits have the same challenges as for profit companies or organizations. The main difference is that the directors of a charity or non-profit do not financially benefit.

Like Bruce MacDonald, I hope that we (you and I) and governing bodies take this opportunity to address outdated thinking towards charitable giving and charities. COVID-19 has exposed the fault lines in charities. Let’s use this opportunity to close them. You and I will benefit as well as your community and your favourite charity.

Eliza Olson, LLD., B.Ed., is President of the Burns Bog Conservation Society

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