April 23rd, 2024

Non-profits hear state of the sector report

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on March 1, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Representatives of multiple non-profit organizations gathered Thursday to network and hear about the 2023 State of the Sector report from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.
The event was co-hosted by Volunteer Lethbridge and Alberta Non-profit Network. During the event, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of the Voluntary Organizations Karen Ball gave a presentation of the 2023 State of the Sector report and answered questions.
During the lunch break Ball spoke about the event, the report and what it means to those organizations in attendance.
“First the good news, revenues are stabilized in our sector. It’s been tumultuous over the last few years as the impacts of COVID-19 have been on all of us, but revenues are stable now inside the non-profit sector, so we’re pretty proud of that,” said Ball.
 She added while that is good news, expenses are skyrocketing for them no differently than for any Albertan and what they’re dealing with their in own family budgets.
 “Within the budgets of non-profits all expenses and costs are up across the board, people are met with those increased costs, and they tend to turn to the services of non-profits, so we’re seeing more people come through our doors,” said Ball.
 She said they are seeing more working people come through their doors than before, with different kinds of needs that non-profit essential services are being asked to respond to.
 One area mentioned in the report is climate change, with 74 per cent of survey respondents expressing they felt climate change had impacted their operations in 2023. Ball said they were surprised with those results.
 “We were really surprised at the amount of which the climate and climate disaster and climate emergency has affected almost every non-profit. It affects them in the kind of programming they’re able to do, and their ability to fundraise ” said Ball.
She said the results also show that climate changes are leading Albertans to rely on non-profits for services if they are being unhoused during climate emergencies.
When it comes to the area of retention of employees within the non-profit sector, Ball said the result show some challenges. She said people might be surprised to learn that there are 285,000 people in Alberta employed in the non-profit sector – more than in oil and gas, forestry and mining combined.
“The salient point in the report is that non-profits make on average 34 per cent less than the average Albertan wage, so we are a huge employer but we’re not always able to pay our employees at the rate of the average Albertan wage,” said Ball.
 She said this makes it more challenging for people thinking about pursuing careers which have the kind of meaning and impact that careers in the non-profit sector have to choose to work in them.
 “And of course, it means that when we’re looking for staff it is more challenging to find people to fill these essential roles,” said Ball.
During the question and answer period after Ball’s presentation, the fact that events like the one they were attending gives members of various non-profit organizations to network was addressed with Volunteer Lethbridge executive director Amanda Jensen saying it is important to them to be able to offer those organizations with such opportunity.
“Volunteer Lethbridge is the convenor for the non-profit sector south of Calgary, so it’s incredibly important that we keep doing events like this so that we can network,” said Jensen.
“So that we can learn from each other, but also so that we can feel like we’re not alone facing these challenges.”  
She said Lethbridge non-profit organizations participated heavily in completing the survey so there are things which are surprising but also many they are experiencing as well as those across the rest of the province.
Jensen said not all is negative – on the contrary she was excited to share how much of a positive impact volunteers have made on the local economy.
“Volunteer Lethbridge is pleased to make an official report today that more than half of people in Lethbridge volunteer. Of those 57 per cent of people that volunteer are giving an average of 91 hours a year and that comes in with an economic impact of almost $135,000,000 to our local economy,” said Jensen.
She said these hours are being given in all sectors across the board including sports, recreation, arts and culture, with many volunteers being youth.
“The fastest growing demographic of volunteers is new Canadians and youth and sometimes those intersect,” said Jensen.

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