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Challenges and Opportunities for Ontario’s Not-for-Profit Sector during Tough Economic Times

July 16, 200916 July 2009

Volunteers, donors and non-profit resources

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Based on telephone discussions in January 2009 with 100 non-profit organizations in Ontario (including 23 cultural organizations), this report highlights key challenges and coping strategies for non-profit organizations in the current recession. The main finding of the study is that there is a “heightened sense of anxiety about funding and organizational stability, even survival, over the next two or three years”.

About one-third of the organizations indicated that, as of January 2009, they had already experienced serious economic impacts, including the loss of some corporate donors and sponsors. Many organizations are concerned about the reductions in their own endowments as well as those managed by foundations and other long-term funders. The report indicates that “organizations with a significant portion of self-generated revenues such as ticket sales or events are feeling the impact of the downturn on a greater scale”. For cultural organizations, the report notes that the impacts seem “mixed at this point in the year”.

Some potential coping strategies for non-profit organizations include:

· increasing knowledge-sharing and collaborations between organizations;

· sharing services and space;

· bartering services between organizations;

· developing job-sharing and other human resource strategies; and

· focusing on core audiences and stakeholders.

A number of organizations are being more conservative in their budgeting. In general, the report argues that those organizations “that have approached the challenges of the downturn with a plan and strategy in place are more likely to have started to make changes and reach out to others in an effort to find creative solutions to manage as budgets shrink”.

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