Things I didn’t know about charities

I am most amazed at the arduous struggle for existence faced by non-profits. Securing donations requires time but also skill and knowledge.

Last year was my first stint as a volunteer director on a non-profit charity board. I always thought non-profits provided much needed services in our communities; services which would not exist otherwise. This is continually reinforced for me.

I am most amazed at the arduous struggle for existence faced by non-profits. Securing donations requires time but also skill and knowledge.

I have an expectation that my taxes, and all our taxes combined, help cover the cost of community services, yet most small non-profits, which form the majority of all non-profits, do not receive one cent from government ministries. Larger charities even find ministry funding inadequate and they must raise additional funds. There is much competition for the precious donor dollar, yet non-profits do not all have the same resources to compete.

Many small non-profits also lose out when it comes to community gaming grants. Although managed by the B.C. government, these grants differ from ministry funding. Community gaming grants are not available for seed funding.

In the first year of operations, a non-profit must find seed funding often from community donors and local businesses. Donors and businesses are inundated by hundreds of requests each year and can only respond to a lucky few.

Community gaming grants do not cover full program costs. Additional funds must come from elsewhere, other than government ministries. In the case where a non-profit is successful at raising funds one year, community gaming rules stipulate that a non-profit must not have more than 50 per cent of the previous year’s operating costs as cash on hand. This in essence penalizes their fundraising efforts.

These community gaming grant rules and fundraising requirements serve to keep community service non-profits in continual hardship, much like the causes and people they serve.

I imagine that if community gaming funding provided to community service providers was what was originally promised to the people of B.C., things would be different. In 1999 this amount was $125 million. While gaming revenues increased, almost exponentially, the amount provided to charities decreased. According to the MOU, today’s gaming revenues of $1.1 billion would provide non-profits with over $300 million annually. What a difference that would make to community services and the non-profits providing these services.

Judith Bernard, board director

South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre Society