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Funding, jobs, and transparency election priorities for Alberta’s nonprofit sector

The Calgary Chamber of Volunteer Organizations (CCVO), which represents member nonprofit organizations in the region, laid out its platform agenda for all of the province’s political parties in what they described as a “bold ask.”

Among the priorities that Alberta’s nonprofit sector is looking to have fulfilled in the upcoming election is the creation of a $300 million community prosperity fund, a labour market study and strategy focused on the nonprofit sector, more data collection about the sector, opening doors to government, and reduced red tape for nonprofit organizations.

“To say $300 million for us in our sector feels bold, and we wanted to make sure that we were asking for something bold that captured the attention of the 30,000 nonprofits in Alberta and the 300,000 people that work in this sector,” said Karen Ball, President and CEO of CCVO.

“When you look at the $2 billion surplus in the budget, you might think well $300 million is not a lot. But what I’m going to tell you today is that that’s a very bold ask for nonprofits considering everything that we do and the impact that we have in Alberta.”

At issue for the sector is what they say are increasing staffing shortages, decreased funding, and pressures brought on by inflation that are making running nonprofits in Alberta increasingly untenable.

“The fact is that after three years of doing more with less, many Alberta nonprofits are in crisis. There are 30,000 nonprofit organizations in Alberta, and they contribute $5.5 billion Alberta’s economy every year, and employ nearly 300,000 people.”

“I hear every single day from nonprofit organizations that are struggling to hire staff that are turning away those in need and that are stretching their last dollar to pay the power bill—and frankly, this isn’t just a nonprofit problem. When nonprofits fail, our society fails.”

Non-partisan platform items

CCVO, along with its partner chambers in Lethbridge, Edmonton, and Wood Buffalo, announced the 2023 election platform priorities in a report entitled Too Essential to Fail.

“Alberta’s provincial parties have an opportunity. An opportunity to collectively create an Alberta that everyone, from the youngest graduate, just leaving university to a senior in care, is proud to call home,” said Ball.

Ball said that the priorities outlined for the nonprofit sector were ones that needed to be included in all of Alberta’s political party platforms for the upcoming election.

She described the items as being appropriate to the need — sometimes dire — that nonprofits and the clients they serve are currently facing. There are issues with Albertans going hungry from lack of food security support, struggles for parents to find child care, and downtowns across the province becoming tougher and less vibrant.

“And there is a growing number of deaths of kids in care. Let me just say that again, deaths of kids in care with an election on the horizon,” said Ball.

From April 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022, a total of 38 children and young adults receiving post-age-18 intervention supports died while receiving government care.

Funding ask on top of previous emergency support requested

Ball said that the $300 million community prosperity fund was on top of the $30 million in emergency stabilization funding requested, but not granted by the government, last November.

She said that the funding model proposed by the CCVO allows for sustainability, but that emergency funding was still needed from the government.

“Emergency funding is still required now, and looking into the long term for platform priorities as a signal that they understand the importance of that sustainable funding,” Ball said.

The report outlined how the funding would support the creation of 4,800 jobs in the province while promoting the other initiatives currently undertaken by the government surrounding community safety and well-being.

Another goal for the fund would be to reduce reliance on oversubscribed grant programs like the Civil Society Fund. That was reduced from $20 million in the 2022 budget to $3 million in the 2023 budget.

“Huge need in the nonprofit sector for this kind of funding, and $3 million is not going to get us anywhere near where we need to be to respond to the need that we’re feeling in our sector,” Ball said.

Labour force strategy, data, transparency desired

Among the other election priorities, they’re asking for a comprehensive labour market study for the non-profit sector, and better data collection by the government so that informed decisions can be made on the direction of services provided.

The CCVO report highlighted the information gap in areas like salaries, wage gaps across gender and socioeconomic lines, the number of qualified candidates, and the number of trained professionals available for sector-specific roles.

“Reliable and consistent labour market information specific to the nonprofit sector in Alberta will enable nonprofits to achieve fair, stable, and productive workplaces by identifying emerging trends and challenges, measuring the progress of workforce initiatives, and comparing across industries and sectors,” read the report.

Within the province, non-profit sector data is not available. At the federal level data exists for entire provinces and territories, but doesn’t measure the capacity of services, or regional characteristics to inform decision-makers on specific area needs.

CCVO is also asking for better data to be made available about non-profits themselves. That would help reduce overlap in services provided.

“We want to work with government to explore how a cohesive view of our 30,000 organizations can generate efficiencies, cut red tape and avoid one-off decision making,” said Ball.

Common access point for government and non-profits needed

Ball said that they’re also looking to have a more transparent presence within government, with a goal for the government to provide a common place for non-profits to engage with the GOA on shared interests. That would clarify which ministry or decision-maker should be approached.

The organization also wants government funding to include non-profit decision-makers. Reducing bureaucracy in how money is spent would also help.

“We understand our own business better than government does, and we want to work with the next Government of Alberta to share decision-making around the allocation of government funds to ensure the highest use and strongest returns,” said Ball.

Overall, she said, the financial asks made of the government are not new, nor are they being done just for the election. Many of the requests are pre-existing and have been available on the CCVO website prior to the election-specific platform release.

“I know [the Government of Alberta] is listening, I know they hear the pressures, but we just need them to make the connection to how they invest in our sector,” Ball said.

For more on the CCVO election platform, see www.calgarycvo.org/2023platformpriorities.