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Society earns charitable status

A local volunteer organization has taken a step up, adding the status of a charitable organization to their existing status as a non-profit society.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre Society recently received news that their application to the federal government for charitable status had been accepted.

“We submitted a request in September, but we’ve been working on it for several months,” said Wendy Weisner, spokesperson for the society. The society, which helps connect non-profits with volunteers and vice-versa, was registered as a non-profit society with the B.C. government in March 2010. Soon after, Weisner said, the board started discussing applying for charitable status.

Besides being able to issue tax receipts for donations, Weisner said charitable status may open up some new funding possibilities. There are a number of funders, she explained, that want to see that an organization has charitable status before issuing a grant or donation.

“It means that we’ve got just a little higher level of responsibility in terms of reporting back on our fiscal status,” said Weisner. “Most charities are both — a non-profit and a charity — so they have a double responsibility for reporting back to the governments and, ultimately, the public on being accountable for how they are spending donor and public funds.”

Another benefit to the charities is that the directorate publishes all those organizations that have charitable status in good standing, as well as basic information about them and their financial reports.

“It does add that level of security for donors, to know there is a higher standard of reporting for charities,” Weisner said. “You can lose your charitable status, and you can lose it a lot easier than you get it.”

More than 200 non-profits in the region receive support from the society, which provides support at several levels of the non-profit system. The 2011 Volunteer Opportunities Handbook — the second edition — lists 53 non-profits and their volunteer opportunities and is available online or by calling the volunteer centre. The society has over 250 registered volunteers and 40 non-profits as registered members.

But they also deliver programs to staff and boards of directors to help build capacity in other non-profit organizations, include seminars and information around concepts like targeted volunteer recruitment, board development and creating a culturally welcoming non-profit. Other tools, available through the centre’s website, were created to help volunteers decide where they might like to volunteer.

“Charitable status truly reflects the work we started in 2006 and the type of funding structure we work within,” said Weisner. “Our work benefits the community, is provided with the help of volunteers, is funded through private foundations and donors, and any income goes right back into delivering programs.”

More information about the volunteer centre is available online at www.volunteercentre.info, including the Volunteer Opportunities Handbook.

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