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A Look at the State of the Funding Landscape in B.C. (Spoiler: It’s Not Great.)

A series of articles and reports have come out recently highlighting the state of non-profit funding across Canada. What emerges is a troubling account of increased need and decreased funding across the board at the federal, local, and individual giving level. Unrestricted operational funding is needed now more than ever.

Increased Demand Without Increased Funding

It's Time for Change - 2023 Giving Report
It's Time for Change - 2023 Giving Report

According to over half of the charities polled in a recent Canada Helps report, demand for their services has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, and only 29.6 percent state that they can meet the need with their organization’s current resources. The Community Services Recovery Fund, focused on pandemic recovery for non-profits, ended in March 2023 and yet the demand for services continues to grow. What’s more, due to recent inflation, SVP Investee and Alumni organizations report that their costs for rent, utilities, transportation, food, and staff wages have increased immensely, and that grants and donations are not keeping up.

Anna Forst with SVP Vancouver Investee organization Writers’ Exchange describes their current situation: “Normally at this time of year, we have met our fundraising targets and can start to look forward to next year, but this is not the case. It has meant we have to look at decreasing our summer programs, which is a critical time for maintaining literacy support (when school is out). If the trend continues this may carry over into the next school year,” she says.

For some organizations, the reality of the situation has already proven to be too much: Mealshare – a former SVP Vancouver Investee – is closing its doors permanently. Mealshare’s Executive Director, Mona Pinder, recently shared their current status with Future of Good. “Unfortunately, due to the rising costs of food, fewer dollars donated, and the impact of the pandemic and now, inflation on the restaurant industry, we’ve had to make the difficult decision to close our doors at the end of April,” she said.

Lower Mainland Organizations Face High Rents, Inflation, and Drop in Funding Opportunities

A recent editorial in the Vancouver Sun by former SVP Fundraising Director Amanda Burrows lays out the landscape for local non-profit organizations and the unique challenges they face. In the piece, she states that, “A city grant can be the difference between a desperately needed, innovative service coming to fruition and a continued gap in our social services that keep people marginalized and in cycles of poverty.”

Sophia Suderman, Executive Director of SVP Alumnus Our Community Bikes, is all too familiar with the bleak funding landscape that Vancouver non-profits are currently facing. She recently shared that when she followed up with the City of Vancouver after not receiving a grant, “The feedback was that the grant application was excellent and there were no recommendations for how it could be improved. Unfortunately, the City of Vancouver had not received a budget increase this year, and only approved four new programs out of 65 applications.” And it’s not only the City of Vancouver whose budget is not increasing. Since the pandemic, four other regular OCB funders have all cut or decreased their funding, due to dwindling budgets.

Other Investee and Alumni organizations are identifying similar challenges. Carol Neuman from One to One Literacy points out that there is a greater need for them to deliver services, which they are doing despite challenges in meeting their expenses. “We’re being expected to do more for the kids we serve, as they’re deeply affected by the pandemic. We’ve upped our training based on tutor feedback around the many social and emotional challenges young readers are facing.” At the same time, “Our individual giving has significantly declined during the course of the pandemic,” and “inflation is affecting our ability to provide a living wage and be competitive in the job market.”

Anna from Writers’ Exchange also notes, “We had three major foundation donors put their funding on pause this year, not just for us, but for all their grantees. This is compounded by many long-term donors giving less than they have in the past, and other grants taking longer to approve.”

How Do Organizations Stay Afloat?

For some Investee and Alumni organizations, relying on outside help has been crucial. Loren Balisky, Director of Engagement at Kinbrace states, “One proactive step we have taken post-pandemic is to seek out an outside pro-bono consultant to meet with us regularly.” This has helped them to clarify their resource development needs, resulting in the creation of a Donor Engagement & Communications Officer role to help fill the gaps.

Loren continues, “The point here is to acknowledge the value of outside accountability, who helped lift us to a new altitude, allowing greater perspective and strategic decision making vis a vis fundraising. Our experience as Investees in years prior is that SVP provided this kind of third-party accountability, which was a huge support.”

SVP Can Help by Doing MORE

We know we provide valuable support with our Time, Talent, Treasure and Ties for organizations that are doing essential work. While we cannot fix the state of funding across the non-profit sector by ourselves, our approach is innovative and crucial, and this community is strong.

The support we offer is needed now, and the need is great. Let’s share more resources, bring in more Partners who want to make a difference, and explore more collaborations with like-minded changemakers. We know that there are people and businesses who want to step up to help our incredible Investee and Alumni organizations meet their communities’ needs, and many of them are in your network of friends, family members and colleagues.

So, what can you do to help? You are already doing so much through your support of SVP! But if you are feeling inspired to take further action, here are a few ways to do it!

  • Connect with friends in your philanthropic circles to share with them the state of the sector

  • Make an introduction between your friends and SVP

  • Make a co-funding gift to an SVP investee/alumni or give directly

  • Spread the word about what SVP does

2023 State of BC's Non-Profit Sector Report
2023 State of BC's Non-Profit Sector Report

SVP Book Club Recommended Reading: 2023 State of the Non-Profit Sector Report

Vantage Point, together with Vancouver Foundation, Victoria Foundation, Vancity Community Foundation, and United Way BC, have released this report after surveying 757 non-profit organizations.

This blog was originally posted on the SVP Vancouver website.


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