"This is Canada and better is always possible."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Shifting the Narrative
Toronto’s own Furniture Bank was just featured in the Charity Defense Council’s thought-provoking “I’m Overhead” ad campaign. The series of ads is challenging the public to rethink what they know about overhead — and shifting the core narrative from one defined by cost to one that celebrates impact.
As President & CEO of Imagine Canada and a member of the Charity Defense Council’s advisory board, the campaign has me dreaming of a new era for Canadian charity. The future I’m envisioning has me more inspired than ever.
Imagine a Canada where charities work together to connect and learn from each other. Imagine a Canada whose charities support and strengthen one another. Imagine a Canada where charitable organizations are more effective, more respected, and more vibrant collectively than they ever could be individually.
That’s the Canada we imagine.
A Canada where charities work hand in hand with business and government to build more vibrant, prosperous communities. A Canada where charities and nonprofits are better able to help those in need and enhance the quality of life for all of us. A Canada where charities are innovative, transparent, ethical, and well-governed.
Where giving is a powerful act engaged in by all our citizens. Where that giving has fundamental, tangible, lasting benefits for our society.
That’s what we imagine when we Imagine Canada.
Like the Charity Defense Council, Imagine Canada contributes to an operating environment which seeks to build a thriving and sustainable social good sector. We want a society that understands the sector's positive impact for each community and doesn’t seek to judge organizations solely on cost. It is critical that we succeed in shifting the narrative from one dominated by cost to one that values impact.
Because strong, sustainable organizations contributing to society make it better.
In the coming months and years, organizations like Imagine Canada will continue to work on key issues facing the sector. These include:
1. Amplifying our Voice
At the root of our desire to speak with a unified, amplified voice is the fact that the core nonprofit narrative is defined largely by cost.
In the coming years, it is our intention to re-focus the conversation from one of playing defence related to cost to going on the offence in talking about impact. Imagine Canada, itself, is re-tooling to shift from being a business-to-business entity to one that engages directly with Canadians as a business-to-consumer organization.
To succeed in breaking through, we understand that our commitment needs to be long-term and sustainable.
We also need to respectfully challenge sector leaders to think about their role as unintentional participants in the focus on cost. Attempting to "win" funding by showcasing unrealistically low core costs continues to reinforce the message that amazing program outcomes can be achieved without the necessary investment. It may be short term gain, but it is definitely causing long-term pain.
Plain and simple? Real impact requires real investment and we are committed to ensuring that this is understood across the nation.
2. Elevating our Excellence
Canada’s charities hold a privileged place in society. In the most recent, significant polling about the nonprofit sector – Talking About Charities 2013 – charities are the second most trusted industry, ranking behind only small business. As professionals, charity leaders are third behind doctors and nurses. Yet, there are signs of weakness in the polling data. When asked "are charities generally honest about how they use donations," respondents have dropped their approval rating by 14% since the inception of the survey.
Fortunately, the sector has responded. For five years, a national Standards Program has been in place to demonstrate that charities and nonprofits are committed to the highest levels of governance, transparency, and accountability. 73 Standards in 5 different categories. As the number of organizations participating in the program continues to grow and a concerted marketing effort works to bring profile to the brand, Canadians will come to know that these organizations are doing their utmost to maintain that place of privilege and trust.
3. Re-Imagining Social Good
Over the next decade, organizations like Imagine Canada will work with and on behalf of charities, nonprofits, social enterprises, etc. to ensure that community members continue to actively participate in the betterment of society.
Will accomplish this together. We will maintain trust and respect. We will demonstrate the impact of the sector – from incremental steps to full transformation. We will showcase the incredible contributions that social good makes to the economy. We will invite sector leaders to join in amplifying a set of unified messages. We will continually improve the operating system for social good organizations in this country.
In short…we will achieve the possible…making society better.