Friday, January 23, 2009

Tough Economic Times and the Federal Budget

It's hard to avoid hearing about the state of the current economy on TV these days without hearing about job losses and how bad things have turned. The private sector is a buzz with lay offs and in turn, the government is doing what it can to react to the situation.

However, in these times, the non-profit sector is also affected. Corporate sponsorships are either down or threatened. If they are not, some non-profit executives tell me that if they have already have locked in support, that support may be in question next year as the private sector looks for means to tighten the belt. While economic difficulties impact as well on private citizen donations in turn, research seems to show that volunteerism goes up. ...or at least the demand as well for volunteers(Click here).

On Wednesday, I sat in on an interesting discussion by Imagine Canada wherein we took up the subject of the economy, the current economic situation, and Tuesday's coming federal budget.

Having submitted a brief for consideration, Imagine Canada brings up an important point. In fact, they have a number of points:

1 .For non-profits and charities, now is the time (more than ever) for their voice to be heard before government of the direct impact they have on the economy and Canadian society. Charities need to rethink how they approach matters and become creative even within their charitable status constraints limiting their operating budget dedications of 10%.
2. For society, whether you agree with 100% of Imagine Canada's presentation, (and no, I don't agree everything proposed is right for the economy nor should everything proposed become a priority....see my personal blog at http://www.markbuzan.com) the impact of the non-profit sector and volunteerism in Canada should not be ignored.

However, regarding the latter, it seems the non-profit sector has leagues to go before its counsel is taken into account. Time will tell and we will know whether or not the charitable sector will be recognized more in federal policy. For now, it does appear as though Conservatives in Canada has the same recognition for the voluntary sector as Conservatives in the United States have traditionally demonstrated.

In the end, the onus will remain on non-profit execs to rethink their approach, become more proactive in building political ties, and understand that the best developed policies or intended programs will remain unfunded by government until they change direction.
Mark Buzan is Principal of Action Strategies, a GR Consultancy for non-profits. Subscribe now to his Lobbying tips newsletter at www.actionstrategies.ca/Action_Strategies/Newsletter.html

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