FAQs en français
The Canadian charitable sector employs more than 10% of the country’s full-time workforce and accounts for 8.3% of the country’s GDP. However, up-to-date data on the sector is critically scarce and urgently needed. The COVID-19 pandemic painfully highlighted this gap in knowledge, when urgent policy action was needed but recent data were unavailable to strengthen the sector’s responses to the crisis and lessen the impact on its own workforce.
While financial data is available through the Registered Charity Information Return form (T3010), and key stakeholders in the charitable sector have conducted critical surveys (e.g., Philanthropy Responds, Imagine Canada Sector Monitor), persisting limitations prevent us from addressing the pressing need for timely and representative information.
First, the publishing lag between the collection of data and their release diminishes our ability to know what is currently happening in the sector. On average, complete T3010 data is released 18 months after its initial collection. The information collected through the forms does not offer insights on current issues facing the sector, valuable details about its workforce, or trends affecting the charities' activities. Because of a lack of investment in data-gathering efforts, large-scale surveys are not regularly conducted, and cannot offer a deeper look at trends over time. The Giving, Volunteering, and Participation survey, for example, was last conducted five years ago. Moreover, it was not aimed at charities but at the general Canadian population. The CICP will focus its efforts specifically on the charitable sector's organizations and people.
Second, while surveys done by partner organizations are crucial, sampling and response rate challenges make some of the lessons learned from the data hard to generalize. Survey recruitment is resource-intensive yet necessary for a representative sample to be drawn and results to be meaningful. Since 75% of registered charities have yearly expenditures of less than $500,000 CAD, our survey samples must represent this reality. In practice, it is the more resourced charities that are typically consulted on urgent issues facing the sector. The CICP will tackle this dearth of information.
The CICP is an ambitious project that will ensure that policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and the general public have accurate, timely, and comprehensive information about the charitable sector in Canada. As well, it will better align priorities among funders, government officials, and organizations within the communities they serve. Through weekly surveys and live reporting, an online interactive information and training hub, monthly policy briefs, quarterly reporting, and a yearly data summit event, the CICP will offer an extensive and accessible overview of the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing the Canadian charitable sector today.
The project lead is Paloma Raggo, an Assistant Professor in the Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL), School of Public Policy and Administration, and the Sprott School of Business, Carleton University, where she researches and teaches research methods for practitioners, charity governance and leadership, and global philanthropy. Her expertise in these areas gives her a rich overview of the project’s many components.
Callie Mathieson is the CICP's Chief Project Officer. She contributes knowledge and experience to the CICP through her diverse background in both the public and private sectors.
Researching advisors currently include Susan Phillips, leading experts on the Canadian charitable sector. Phillips is a professor in the MPNL program. Her research focuses on public policy and regulation of charities and place-based philanthropy. She heads the policy area of the project.
The academic advisory council will be composed of key stakeholders of the charitable sector in Canada. The mandate of the academic advisory council is to bring together expertise in the charitable sector to discuss the project’s emerging findings and next steps and to promote greater collaboration within the sector.
Carleton University has formally committed resources and staff, in addition to the requested funds, to ensure the project’s long-term success. We have access to a research facilitator, event coordinators, computing scientists, and technology support staff. Partnering with a university offers several unparalleled advantages in terms of infrastructure and research personnel. These range from website development, library resources, computing, and big data scientists to hosting events. The university’s commitment to the charitable sector’s development is beyond comparison. Carleton University offers and supports the only graduate program in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership in Canada. The program’s extensive alumni network and community supporters will ensure the initial project dissemination and promote the data generated by it. Its location in Canada’s capital provides Carleton University’s team access to policymakers, further strengthening the relationship between policymakers and the charitable sector, a core goal of this project.
(1) To inform the sectors’ stakeholders and promote empirical research by regularly surveying a representative sample of registered charities in Canada; collecting weekly, monthly, and quarterly data on the critical aspects, trends, and challenges at the forefront of the charitable sector.
(2) To build a lasting, sustainable, and flexible infrastructure to promote access and understanding of the data collected about the sector.
(3) To strengthen the relationship between the sector and policymakers in designing evidence-based policies on issues impacting the charitable sector.
Overall, the project center's around developing weekly surveys containing two questions on average (about 100 questions yearly). Questions range from opinion data on key issues facing the sector, such as the disbursement quota. Others provide information on the sector's workforce, programs, and funders, to name a few. In addition, we are developing a portal where practitioners will be able to submit suggestions. For now, if you have questions you'd like to see answered, please e-mail our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
To maximize the CICP's impact, we focus on recruiting a year-long panel that is representative of registered charities. The answers to the study questions are made available to everyone within days through weekly semi-automated reporting and tools developed by the team.
Weekly reports are hosted through the CICP's website and diffused through a mailing list, social media, and our networks. To enable easy and meaningful access to the information collected, we are developing a training hub where practitioners can learn basic data literacy skills and get training from experts to answer their information and data questions. The analytical and visualization tools developed are open source, and the data generated will soon be freely accessible to all Canadians.
While weekly information is available almost instantaneously, the CICP will also release a complete dataset each year, including the roughly 100 survey answers to opinion questions, trends, organizational information complementary to the T3010 forms, and data about the sector’s workforce. Moreover, the official launch of the yearly dataset will be integrated into an annual “data summit” event. Participating panellists, experts, community organizations, and policymakers will be invited to reflect on the year’s trends and develop an idea agenda for the following year.
Providing the data without building capacity in the sector is not a sustainable strategy for the current and future needs of the sector. By developing information-gathering processes and practices, we want to create a sustainable information infrastructure for the charitable sector in Canada that can be replicated in the future (goal 2). In addition, by building the sector’s information infrastructure and promoting research on the data collected (goals 1 & 2), we will strengthen the conversation between policymakers and the sector (goal 3).
The CICP produces monthly policy briefs about pressing issues in the sector and trends revealed in the data. Additionally, the project will offer to aggregate empirical information about the sector produced by key stakeholders, government officials, and community organizations. Carleton’s strategic location in Ottawa will facilitate connections and events with policymakers, bureaucrats, and sector experts.
Each year, we approach randomly selected registered charities to participate. Selected participants receive up to three weekly questions about relevant issues facing the sector. Results are published within 48 hours on our website.
Surveys began being published for the first year of the study in December, 2022. Year 1 will be finished on November 29th, 2022 and Year 2 will commence in January, 2023.
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A transformational investment of $3.4 million from the Alberta-based Muttart Foundation, the Lawson Foundation and Metcalf Foundations in Ontario, the Vancouver Foundation in British Columbia and an anonymous donor has made the CICP possible. Dr. Paloma Raggo, faculty member in the School of Public Policy and Administration and the Sprott School of Business, is the project lead.
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