April 20th, 2018

Time for a closer look at government commissions and charities — both growth industries

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on June 16, 2017.

If you are looking for a growth industry then government and charities have got to be at the top of the list.

If the government wants to sidestep an issue and at the same time get the public to stop asking probing questions one of the easiest options is to call for an inquiry, establish a committee to look into it, or the big one — appoint a commission. Because of the gravity of the issue it cannot be rushed and so the committee, board and/or commission is given years to do the job — with extensions, of course. With all of that comes a hefty budget for a weighty issue. Of course.

Just recently we have heard that Alberta Health Services set up a panel to examine medical assistance in dying (MAID) and their conclusions are ready to be reported on by the fall. In contrast the federal government set up three panels about six months ago to investigate the same topic and those panels do not have to report anything until December 2018. Even then they do not have to make any recommendations, only present findings.

Well, it is a way to employ people and reward those who have “faithfully” served government (sorry, that should be “the people”) and need to be “thanked” by politicians.

Decades ago it was mainly churches that provided assistance to those in need. With fewer and fewer people affiliated with a denomination and/or church there has been a need for alternatives and there is no shortage of those now.

We have numerous charities to help those battling a specific disease. Governments and health care did not and do not provide the support required. There has been more and more pressure on those charities to provide not only support but education and public awareness on a large scale. That all takes money and that is where so much has changed.

Charities now have CEOs with six-figure incomes, offices and a full complement of staff, many of whom spend a large percentage of their time developing grant applications so the funding will roll in for all the salaries that have to be paid.

If you have never been involved in applying for a grant you would be surprised at how long it can take to simply complete the standard forms that could include about 20 pages of questions.

There are so many applying for grants that you also have to stand out from the crowd. It may pay, if you get more grants, to hire professionals to do a slick presentation/video/magazine with an ambitious agenda and goals. It must wow the people making the decisions.

There has been an increase in grant funding for really specific initiatives in the last while. With little time to come up with an idea before the application must be submitted it could be argued that there is not always much thought given to worthiness or need. But, it will bring some money in and retain staff.

Perhaps it is time to rethink how charities and not-for-profits get their funding, what percentage of staff time and the organization’s budget goes to applying for grants. We may have reached a point where those that are worthy deserve stable government funding and the others should be left to seek donations from people involved who support that organization’s initiative.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to http://www.medicinehatnews.com/opinions or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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