Non-profits: This federal election is the time to step it up!

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Happening Now Thursday, August 20, 2015 View Count = 2936

Non-profits: This federal election is the time to step it up!


This blog post was co-authored by Samara's Executive Director Jane Hilderman and the Ontario Nonprofit Network's (ONN) Executive Director Cathy Taylor. The post can also be read on ONN's blog

Let's talk, non-profit leaders. 

This federal election provides non-profits with a chance to kick start an important conversation for our sector: what role does (and should) non-profits play in democracy?How can the non-profit sector build a healthier democracy?

You’ve likely heard the depressing statistics: voting ratesladder of engagement have declined by 14% in the past three decades; youth and newcomers are less likely to vote; a full 39% of Canadians say they haven’t had a political conversation in the last year. This hurts democracy, but it also makes the work of charities and non-profits more challenging. When there are less people on the ladder of engagement, we lose the ability to be aware of community needs, to be better advocates and to shape thriving communities.

Bridging the gap 

According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, non-profit groups are the most trusted of groups—more so than business, media organizations and politicians. This unique position allows non-profits to hear what’s happening on the ground, as well as develop and amplify the voices of Canadians widely. Fundamentally, non-profits form a vital bridge between communities and government: it’s our role—and our responsibility—to invest in the democratic engagement of the people and communities that we serve, and create public policy.

Non-profits step up

Democracy is not only about voting. As Nick Saul of Community Food Centres Canada rightly points out, “democracy is a muscle you need to use. Right now there is atrophy of this muscle in Canada.”

Non-profits need to walk the walk, talk about our role in democracy boldly and share it passionately in our work, especially with other stakeholders like government, funders and businesses.

Samara and ONN believe leadership is key: from Boards of Directors to Executive Directors, volunteers to front-line staff, we want non-profits to support the deliberate, intentional development of leadership to take on the responsibility of being vocal champions of democracy.

With this in mind, Samara and ONN created Nonprofits Step Up, a new infographic that puts these bold statements into an eye-catching narrative. We hope that it resonates with both you and your work, because when nonprofits are actively involved in government and communities, Canada’s democracy becomes stronger and everyone benefits. We’ve outlined 6 Roles Nonprofits Can Play and now it’s your turn:

What role do you want the sector to play in a democracy? What's at stake? 

This election is prime opportunity to have these conversations within our organizations and communities, and with our funders, partners and even election candidates. But it’s not just for the next 10 weeks. Non-profits can, and should be, part of democratic engagement in between elections, too.

Share it, post it, print it

Non-profit leaders, like you, can help shape the role of non-profits in Canada’s democracy. So, what are you doing to help? Both Samara and ONN will be actively sharing resources and tools from non-profits across Canada.

Join us in this conversation, share what you are doing this election on social media using#elxn42, and think about what will come after the federal election. We’re eager to hear from you!

Sample tweets and posts

@o_n_n    @SamaraCda

Non-profits step up for #elxn42. Non-profits make democracy stronger. Vibrant democracy = thriving communities.

Non-profits enable democracy! @[organizationl handle] is a proud supporter of democracy #elxn42  

Non-profits enable democracy! @SamaraCda is a proud supporter of democracy #elxn42

Here are 6 roles nonprofits can play in strengthening democracy.

A few resources—with lots more to come

ONN Conference: Join the conversation – Democracy session

Non-profits Step Up

Election Rules for Non-profits: Explained

Vote Pop Ups

Citizen Sparks

Food Secure Canada: Eat Think Vote

On the Samara BlBlog logo representing the letter 'o'g