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VSI Report Highlights Resources for Canadian Fundraisers, Charities

(Dec. 13, 2004) The Joint Steering Committee of the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI) has released its second evaluation of the VSI process and its impact on charities, the government and their relationship.

The evaluation, The Second Report to Canadians on Implementing an Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector, reviews the VSI's activities from Oct. 2003 to Sept. 2004.

One of the key changes that occurred during this period was the transfer of the federal government VSI lead from Canadian Heritage to the new department of Social Development Canada (SDC) in Dec. 2003. The department's Social Development Directorate includes the Voluntary Sector Affairs Division, which is the focal point for coordinating cross-governmental activities related to the voluntary sector.

The primary focus of the VSI has been the development of a framework agreement articulating the vision and principles that would guide the renewed relationship between the charitable sector and the government. An Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector was developed earlier in the process, as were the Codes of Good Practice on Funding and Policy Dialogue.

Resources for Fundraisers, Charities

Specifically during the reporting period, the VSI has worked on several projects of interest to fundraisers and AFP members:

  • The National Survey of Nonprofit and Voluntary Organizations (NSNVO)which provides essential baseline information about the sector. The NSNVO report is available on the VSI website.
  • The Satellite Account of Nonprofit Institutions and Volunteering was established to generate information about the sector's contribution to the Canadian economy, including data on revenue, expenditures, assets liabilities and net worth. Statistics Canada has been given funding to establish this work as a permanent part of the System of National Accounts. The first publication was launched in Sept. 2004.
  • A feasibility study to determine whether or not a human resources sector council would be necessary and beneficial for the voluntary sector in Canada.
  • The Accords and Codes Knowledgebase of Effective Practices is a growing online collection of case studies that demonstrates how some Canadian charities and nonprofits have been successful in making the Accord and Codes of Good Practice part of the way they do business with the government. The Knowledgebase includes examples and sample strategies for organizations to implementing the Code and Accords.

Improving the Regulatory Environment

A critical part of the VSI has been to improve how the government oversees charities and make regulations more efficient and less burdensome. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and Finance Canada have been allocated $12 million to improve regulation and have focused on five key areas:

  1. Service improvements to help charities register and report;
  2. More transparent and accessible information about registered charities and CRA policies, decisions and regulatory requirements;
  3. A new compliance regime for charities;
  4. A more accessible appeals regime; and
  5. Jurisdictional collaboration among federal and provincial/territorial governments.

The CRA has already take action in some of these areas - for example, creating a Charities Advisory Committee (AFP is represented on this body) and working to simplify the tax return for charities.

Most recently, Industry Canada has introduced C-21, the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, that will improve and clarify how charities register as corporations and the roles and responsibilities of board members and directors (See related eWire article).

A copy of the 2nd report from the VSI Joint Steering Committee is available on the VSI website in PDF format or text.

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