Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

The potential of social media to raise large sums of money online is one of the topics Scott Decksheimer and Andrea McManus discussed during a meeting with Canadian senators.

By Scott Decksheimer

Chair, AFP Canada

President and CEO, The Vitreo Group


Andrea McManus

Past Chair, AFP International

Partner, The Vitreo Group

There’s often this sense in our country that government and the charitable sector work in opposition, each trying to occupy the same space.

From AFP’s What Canadian Donors Want survey, we find some four in 10 Canadians believe (11 per cent strongly/32 per cent somewhat) it’s appropriate for municipalities to reduce their spending in areas like homeless shelters that are already partly funded and managed by charitable organizations.

Similarly, more than half agree (14 per cent strongly/40 per cent somewhat) they will be much more hesitant to donate to charities that receive relatively large funding from government.

This sense that government and charities can’t work together on similar issues is incredibly misguided. Funding for social problems can’t be a zero-sum game where government funding drops if charities are addressing a certain issue.

We are confident that government is very interested in charity and philanthropy and wants to determine the best ways to encourage Canadians to help other Canadians.

Charities and government often approach problems and provide services in different ways, so working together on the same social issues is positive for Canada. In addition, many of the issues challenging our country are massive and comprehensive and need support from more than just one source. They require a collaborative approach with support, solutions and innovation coming from government, the charitable sector and elsewhere.

Fortunately, the federal government is recognizing the need to collaborate with and support charities in their work. The Senate of Canada has created the Special Committee on the Charitable Sector to study how government’s approach to regulation of the non-profit sector can help charities overcome challenges like funding gaps, staff and volunteer retention, and changing demographics and technology,

We both had the honour of appearing before the committee recently to give our views on how government could best support and strengthen the charitable sector. We came away very impressed by the breadth and depth of questions that were asked of us, and the intense interest that senators had in building a strong charitable sector.

During the hour-long panel session, we spoke and answered questions from senators about the challenges and opportunities that charities face and how government can be an active, supportive partner with our sector.

We discussed the potential of social media and the immense amounts of money that can be raised online; the ways to encourage giving by all Canadians; the impact of smaller charities in balance with the work of larger organizations; how charities can build trust with donors and the public and ensure charities are business-like in their practices but philanthropic in their work; and the impact of immigrants on Canadian philanthropy and how charities need to reach out to diverse groups and cultures so we can better serve people across the country.

We are confident that government is very interested in charity and philanthropy and wants to determine the best ways to encourage Canadians to help other Canadians. That’s what philanthropy is all about.

Government at all levels has huge, untapped potential to positively shift the public mindset about the value of the charitable sector. At their cores, government and charities are partners, each in their own way seeking to improve the quality of life for Canadians.

“Government has an important role to play in ensuring charities and non-profits can be as effective as possible,” said Senator Terry Mercer, chair of the committee.

We couldn’t agree more, Senator, and we look forward to the outcome of the committees in support of the efforts of the charitable sector across Canada.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

Interact with The Globe