Sunday, September 14, 2008

[Comment] Georgia Straight - Charities muzzled in election

Pieta Woolley’s brief article raises more questions about the quality of civic engagement than the challenges of navigating CRA guidelines. There is an endemic over reliance on Canada’s primary funding mechanism, the charitable receipt, which encourages too many Board Directors and Executive Directors to spend time considering opportunities presented by generational wealth transfer than advancing the organizational mission.

The universe of Canadian civil society organizations is varied in voice, yet united in a self-limiting attachment to the primary funder – government. Instead of hand wringing over CRA, members of civil society organizations are better served by encouraging their leadership to explore sustainable revenue mechanisms.

In the UK, the government support for the growth of social enterprise acknowledged civil society as a critical dynamic in societal well-being. As a “third sector” in the economy, community organizations have a duty to fully express the needs of their constituency and be financially viable. The two are inextricable.

The CRA Charities Directorate offers a blunt attempt at public accountability for a sector that is under valued for its’ impact on the daily lives of all Canadians. Finger pointing in the direction of CRA misses a core issue.

It’s worth noting:

  • CRA publishes a list of de-registered/annulled charities and the Canada Gazette provides added detail, which range from administrative issues to amalgamation.

  • IMPACS, with Sisyphean effort under Ms. Sylvester’s leadership, attempted to spur robust community organization dialogue in partnership with the business community – most evidently through VanCity. IMPACS “Election Kit” should be on every Executive Directors desk.

  • Paul Martin’s government had undertaken steps to invigorate civil society initiatives and encourage the development of social enterprises, based primarily on the successes in Quebec, as part of his last tabled budget.


Interested in learning more about social enterprise? Take a browse through the Vancouver Social Enterprise Book Store (Vancouver | United Kingdom | United States) and see what other social entrepreneurs recommend reading.

Tags for information about: for:vsef, Social Enterprise, Nonprofit, CRA


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