Five Good Ideas Archive
The involvement of charities in political activities was a major story in 2012. The 2012 Federal Budget introduced new reporting requirements for charities for 2013 but does not fundamentally affect the ability of charities to engage in political activities. Any charity considering conducting any activity that could be construed as political should be familiar with the rules under the Income Tax Act. Registered charities can engage in allowable political activities as long as they are non-partisan, related to their legal objects, and limited resources are used, which generally means less than 10% of resources.
The purpose of policy work is to improve the quality of life for all citizens. As part of that overall goal, it seeks to reduce poverty and inequality, and to promote the inclusion of individuals who typically are underrepresented in the social, cultural, political and economic life of a community – and of a nation. Policy work generally seeks to shift the way in which resources and opportunities are distributed in a society. This change could involve, for example, the provision of higher benefits or the reduction of income taxes. Policy work may also enable access to opportunities, notably advanced education or paid employment. It may build capabilities, such as literacy or skills development, to promote self-sufficiency in the long term. All policy work shares a common goal: to effect some form of change deemed to be in the public interest. But policy efforts can also affect the people who do this work. Each attempt at reform comes with lessons that can be applied not only to future policy initiatives but also as guidance to the non-profit world.
Nonprofit organizations facilitate social change through education, outreach, advocacy and mobilizing. How do we engage more people in this process? How do we create effective messages that help shift public opinion and policy? What obstacles lie in our way, and what role does our aging democratic structure play? This session addresses these and other questions as Dave Meslin shares his views and ideas about successful campaigning.
Why do important ideas to improve public policy seem to rarely get implemented? Is signing another petition going to achieve the results you want to see? Free and democratic societies need the active and vigorous participation of individuals and non-governmental organizations in order to thrive. We all benefit from greater involvement by civil society in the public arena of ideas in an increasingly digital world. Most of us have experienced the fact that impacting public policy requires more than just a passion for a cause and good research.
Governments have the ability to profoundly impact the work of not-for-profits. Changes to funding, policies or regulations, or changes that can have a significant impact on your organization or your constituency, are often made with little consultation or in isolation by governments. With so much influence resting with governments, it is critical that not-for-profits articulate their positions and interests to politicians and civil servants as early and often in the process as possible. This presentation will provide you with hands-on tips and tactics that you can use to create your own government relations program and speak on behalf of your organization. Topics include: how to increase your organization’s profile with government; how to establish and build relationships with government; how to establish your “thought leadership” credentials and how to engage key stakeholders and media as well as political and bureaucratic influencers.
Deal with the issues at a local level. Do good reconnaissance. Who is the elected or advisory level person that has interest at a policy level regardless of what part of the country they are from? Get to know these people and the people that know them. Open lines of communication and maintain a flow of creative material between yourself, the politicians and public servants. Always have a “plan B” in case your primary strategy doesn’t work. Talk to the other political parties. Understand who the “door keeper” is and once you get in understand who is sitting at what table. What kind of materials do they need? Understand that aspects of your issue may be more attractive than others (as well as the solutions) and don’t start with the most difficult material. “Low-hanging fruit” (simple, easy fixes) often provide common first ground.
In March 2005 an Ipsos Reid Survey indicated that four million Canadians or one out of every six adults had been the target of racism. According to Statistics Canada, by 2017 for every 100 visible minorities that will leave the workforce, there will be 142 visible minorities ready to join the workforce. These statistics illustrate the long-term challenges that face Canada’s increasingly diverse workforce and the need to challenge racism in organizations.
Sean Moore, Partner/Public Policy Advisor, Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP
The ability to effectively influence decisions of government is a major challenge for small nonprofits as well as large organizations. However, there are specific steps which nonprofit organizations can take to improve their relationship with governments and their effectiveness in lobbying them.
The City of Toronto plays a large role in the life of its residents, delivering a wide range of services and programs from police and fire services to housing, parks and social services. There are also new opportunities and priorities from a new relationship with other orders of government, to the rejuvenation of Toronto’s waterfront, to a city-wide architectural and cultural renaissance. Everything hinges on reinvesting in the public realm, including transit, affordable housing, and programs that build strong, safe communities. There are a number of ideas of how you can enhance your organization’s ability to engage the new administration.
Most nonprofit organizations have a great deal of experience in the funding cycles of their immediate charitable funders but fewer are knowledgeable about how government budgets are created and managed. Understanding the annual cycle of how government ministries prepare and evaluate their spending proposals can help nonprofit organizations plan and implement their own activities and ultimately co-ordinate these activities to maximize their effectiveness in approaching governments for funding.