Author: Services in Action

Making Sense of the Charitable Industry -Conclusion

For the past few weeks we have been exploring the charitable industry by looking at five key sectors, environment and animal welfare, community and social services, health and wellness, arts and culture, and international development. The purpose of this series was to clear up some of the industry’s murkiness to help you, the potential donor, volunteer, civil sector employee or sideline observer to understand what services exist, how to find relevant information, get involved in your community and participate in causes that are important to you.

To sum up this blog series, I would like to leave you with some great sources to learn more:

211 Canada
Charity Focus
Charity Intelligence
Volunteer Canada
Toronto Charity

Some upcoming events:

May Be Me, an awareness campaign to prevent violence against women and youth
Canada Running Series, a host for many charities, large and small
Julyna, a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society

International Development

As a leading country in the developed world, Canada has made a commitment to help other, struggling nations. One of the ways Canada does this is by funding international programs, organized by Canadian charities or nonprofits. These organizations can apply to the Canadian International Development Agency, (CIDA) and if their mission is in line with the governments current objectives, they may be eligible for funding. As the needs around the world change, CIDA works with these partner agencies ensuring newly identified needs are met.

In 1969, Lester B. Pearson proposed all developed countries give 0.7% of their GDP to foreign aid. Canada had its highest contribution in 1986-87 at 0.5%, but has steadily declined its contribution. Currently, foreign aid stands around 0.3%; with about thirteen other countries contributing more (most are European nations). The March 2012 proposed budget plans to drop foreign aid to 0.24%.

There are countries all around the world that receive funding and support from Canada to improve medical and health care, promote gender equality, sports, children and community programs, poverty elimination, food, housing and educational needs and governance. Some of the best known organizations in this sector are Plan International, World Vision, Oxfam, UNICEF and Canadian Red Cross. Although we mostly hear from them during disasters, they provide many ongoing programs including working with governments to implement new initiatives and leadership, raising awareness and fund development to donor countries.

There are also many small organizations that provide support at a grassroots level to specific communities and groups of people. Services in Action works with many of these international partners, they are:

  • CEHO, building a school in the Mazabuka District of Zambia and are currently looking for help building professional development material for teachers,

  • Helping Hands Uganda, provide sponsorship for children to attend school for only $25 per month

  • Clemency Uganda, runs a community centre for OVCs in Jinja, Uganda

  • Children for a New Haiti, provide community support to the people of Belladère, Haiti currently looking to build five wells

  • Nukoko, works with local youth-run initiatives, providing access to education.

Arts & Culture

In a city like Toronto there are so many different things happening in the world of arts and culture. Although there are a few organizations that are able to make a profit from performing arts, most do not. In fact, some even fundraise to be able to sustain their work. The Canadian Opera Company and the Royal Ontario Museum are examples of organizations that present various types of artistic displays and also fundraise to cover their operating costs. This is probably a good place to clarify the difference between a nonprofit (interchangeable with not-for-profit) and a charity. A nonprofit, is simply that, its mandate is not to turn a profit but earn just enough to sustain its work. A charity collects money for its redistribution to a specific cause or community of people.

There are also charities established as foundations and give money through grants to various people, groups and events. In Canada, both the Federal and Provincial Governments have organizations set up for the purpose of providing grants. The Toronto Arts Foundation allows government agencies, corporations and individuals to make a donation. The money is then redistributed to a wide range of people and programs.

There are other cultural organizations tend to focus on the different ethnicities represented in Canada. This includes organizations that celebrate traditions, ancestry, language, or national identity. The Institute for Canadian Citizenship offers new citizens a cultural access pass. This provides free admission to events and exhibits across the country for one year.

So, when it comes to the sector of arts and culture, most organizations are nonprofit, some also fundraise and some receive grants from various foundations, including all three levels of government.

To learn more about what is happening near you check out:
Toronto Arts Online
Canada Charity, arts & culture

Health and Wellness

Each weekend in the spring seems to bring another run, walk or bike a-thon to support a different charity seeking to eradicate a different illness or disease. With so many charities and fundraising events, it’s hard to understand who does what, and how you can participate.

In Canada there are almost six thousand health related organizations that fund research, provide education or care for those who are sufferers by providing counselling, resources or support. Let’s consider an illness like cancer. There are broad-based organizations, like the Canadian Cancer Society, that focus on general fundraising initiatives, education and research projects, but there are also organizations that focus on particular types of cancers, like Julyna, which raises money for research and education specifically related to cervical cancer. There are also organizations that focus on the needs of patients, like the Ronald McDonald House, which gives families a place to stay if their children need treatment away from home.

To learn more about the complex nature of the health industry and related charities, take a look at Charity Intelligence’s Cancer Report. In April 2011, when the report was written there were 278 charities in Canada that focused specifically on cancer, each with a slightly different mandate. As they describe the different types of cancer, research initiatives and impact on those affected, it becomes clear how multifarious the needs are and why there are so many different charities.

In addition to charities that focus on one type of illness, there are also foundations for hospitals and other healthcare facilities. In fact, most hospitals in Canada have a foundation that raises money and awareness for their patients. The Women’s College Hospital Foundation is a great example of this type of foundation.

It is also worth noting, there are many organizations that provide long term assistance for people who have been affected by different types of disease or disabilities. The Canadian Council on Rehabilitation and Work offers various training programs and solutions for people with disabilities who are seeking employment. They also host an online career development and employment portal to link Canadians with disabilities and employers looking to hire.

Community and Social Services

The Community and Social sector is not defined so much by the type of services they offer, but by the catchment area they serve. Essentially, the mandate of an organization within this category seeks to serve the people of their community. Some of services can include foodbanks, shelters, community centres, language courses, vocational training, counselling or programs for people with physical or mental disabilities or disease.

Organizations that provide services for their local community tend to be small, fairly uncomplicated in structure and not too well known. However, there are two organizations that stand out within this sector. They are the YMCA and the United Way. The YMCA Canada is part of a larger international network, but has regional offices. Their goal is to improve communities by connecting with individuals through programs. Although the YMCA is most commonly known for their fitness and child programs, they offer a lot of other services including courses for newcomers, shelters, employment training and even international programs.

The United Way Canada also part of a larger, international network, but works in Canada through regional offices. They also seek to improve communities by working on an individual level. However, they connect with individuals by funding and offering training to community and social services. They fundraise on their own and then redistribute the money. It is a great way for small organizations to get funding without having to raise their own money. The United Way also tends to be a popular choice for employee giving programs because they reach so many different types of people across the country.

So, where should you go if you are looking for help? If you live in Ontario, the best place to look for information about what is happening in your community or how to find specialized services is 211Ontario. They have information on over 56 000 agencies and services and provide the information in an easy to access format.

Some of the community or social services that Services in Action works with are:
Fife house
Romero House
Covenant House
Pathways for Children, Youth and Families of York Region

If you want to get involved in a local fundraising event, there is a great opportunity tomorrow, April 25, 2012 with A Taste For Life.

Environment and Animal Welfare Based Organizations

In March there was Earth Hour, April 22nd will be Earth Day and May hosts Bike-to-Work Month. In fact, all year-round there are different initiatives raising awareness for various environmental concerns, all led by different groups. So, who are these groups and how are their causes differentiated?

When it comes to environmental organizations a few national, well established ones stand out. They are the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club of Canada, the Nature Conservatory of Canada, the World Wildlife Fund Canada and Greenpeace Canada. Although each achieve their mission in different ways and focus on different types of projects, they all share the common bond of protecting and conserving the planet’s natural environment. Beyond these five, there are hundreds of other environmental organizations within Canada that have more specific targets such as geographical region or element of nature, (for example air quality, climate change or fresh water). One of the largest organizations within this category is Ducks Unlimited Canada, which seeks to conserve, restore and manage wetlands for the habitation of waterfowl.

Similar to the majority of environmental groups, animal welfare organizations tend to narrow their focus. For example, they are either an association or sanctuary for a specific species of animal or they are a rescue shelter within a designated region. The two national organizations that are not limited by animal species and are nationwide are the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Humane Society of Canada Federation. The SPCA has shelters around the world and the Humane Society of Canada Federation has regional member agencies across Canada. Both advocate on behalf of animal welfare.

Whether your passion is in the air, under water or something in between, finding an organization that shares your passion about the environment, species of animal (or breed of dog for that matter) can be easily achieved through a quick online search. For more information about where to look, feel free to contact us at

Here are some upcoming events:
The CN Tower Climb for WWF Canada, April 21, 2012
Earth Day, April 22, 2012
For a complete list of dates for environmental campaigns click here

Making Sense of the Charitable Industry

Each spring it seems like there are more causes raising awareness, fundraising events to attend and appeals for your donation. The charitable industry in Canada is huge; there are 86,000 charities and counting. As a potential donor, volunteer, civil sector employee or sideline observer it can be confusing to know how to respond or get involved.

As part of our mandate, Services in Action seeks to clear up some of the industry’s murkiness. So, for the next few weeks we are going to discuss some of the different themes in the charitable sector and how you can learn more or participate in the area of your interest. The themes we’re going to look at are health and wellness, environmental and animal welfare, arts and culture, community and safety services and international development.

If you have specific questions or would like your favourite charity to be considered, please let us know at

Professional Development for Teachers

We know that increased education, particularly amongst girls, pays off substantially. It has a profound impact on poverty and its affects in the developing world. Increased education decreases infant, maternal and child mortality rates, and fosters further education for the next generation of children. Increased education also improves quality of life indicators, particularly health, household income and productivity and reduces violence and armed conflict around the world. In fact, for each additional year a child receives education their family, income and community are substantially impacted.

Services in Action is working with an organization that is currently building a school in the Mazabuka District of Zambia. It is a primary school and will specifically target orphans and vulnerable children. They have hired three teachers who have received formal education at the government training colleges in Zambia. They have also secured funding for the curriculum and administrative supplies. However, they need to ensure the teachers have access to suitable and ongoing professional development resources. They are specifically looking for material on teaching practices, leadership, management and early childhood development.

To help them find these resources Services in Action is looking for assistance in two areas:

1. We are asking for material regarding the aforementioned subjects or any additional information that may be valuable to a primary school teacher;

2. We are seeking advice or direction on providing useful information, (particularly from anyone who has experience providing or creating professional development for teachers).

If you are interested in sharing your resources, many people would greatly benefit. For more information about this project or to send material, please contact us at

Expensive donations

An article recently published in the Edmonton Sun draws attention to the uncomfortable question commonly faced by charities -when is it okay to say “no, thank you” to a donation? With constant scrutiny charities are held to a very high standard of graciousness. What many donors don’t realize is their donations are not always helpful. Edmonton’s Good Will spent $257,000 on garbage fees last year for donations that were unusable.

2011-12-21: Here’s a recent article with a similar story found here.