Building the Financial Resilience and Sustainability of Our Grantee Partners in Canada
Non-profit organizations in Canada play a crucial role in creating communities and economies that are inclusive of immigrants and refugees. However, a lack of flexible, stable, long-term funding often holds non-profits back from being innovative and providing the level of support that communities need. The available funding, in most cases from the government, is often tied to short-term agreements and imposes strict guidelines on how the funds can be used.
Historically, non-profits have been sustained through grants, contracts, and donations. But today’s funding landscape has shifted drastically. Grants tend to be short term and project-based, and contracts rarely keep up with inflation. As a result, non-profits are seeking new and different ways to become financially resilient and reduce dependency on fundraising. Financially resilient organizations develop and attract multiple revenue streams so they can withstand financial ups and downs and ensure sustained impact over a longer period of time.
The WES Mariam Assefa Fund currently supports over 40 organizations working in the immigrant-serving space in Canada and has consistently heard from its grantee partners that improving fundraising capacity and financial sustainability is one of their biggest needs. In response, the Fund partnered with Scale Collaborative in fall 2022 to offer the Thriving Non-Profits program to a cohort of Fund grantee partners and other organizations serving immigrant and refugee communities.
Thriving Non-Profits is a five-month program that helps organizations build financial resilience through learning about non-profit revenue options and developing a revenue diversification strategy tailored to their organization. Developed by Scale Collaborative, the program focuses on the culture of money, traditional strategies and entrepreneurial thinking, fee-for-service, social enterprise models, assets, partnerships, and leveraging alignment between organizations’ hiring, purchasing, banking, and investments with increased impact. Each participating organization was matched with a coach for several coaching sessions to help the organization create a customized revenue diversification action plan.
With the first cohort supported by the Fund just coming to an end, we are reflecting on how we can best support grantee partners’ capacity-strengthening needs. Our goal as a funder is to provide support to organizations “beyond the check,” through resources and learning opportunities tailored to the needs of our grantee partners.
Here’s a look at how the Fund’s grantee partners are leveraging the program:
Rural Development Network (RDN) is a national non-profit that empowers rural communities and champions rural community development. The Fund is supporting RDN as it pilots a faith-based employee resource group (ERG) in Temiskaming Shores & Area, a small, highly homogeneous region in Ontario of 30,000 residents which has a strong desire to welcome and recruit immigrants. To create a welcoming and inclusive space that attract immigrants and promotes their retention, RDN is forming relationships with key stakeholders and employers in the community.
For the team at RDN, the program gave them the space to look at their current financial trends and program analysis and discuss new possibilities. Having this time carved out was key.
Lisa Bélanger, director of operations at RDN, said, “The program helped us look at opportunities and challenges differently and provided useful tools for deeper analysis and learning. With supporting information and resources, as well as ideas that came from other organizations in our cohort, we’ve been able to focus on priority next steps as well as identify new financial opportunities to explore that we hadn’t even considered before. These financial opportunities will enable Rural Development Network to have even more positive impact in the community.”
RDN is now focusing on three areas for financial diversification: fee-for-service, events, and assets and real estate.
Jayde Roche, director of rural revitalization and immigration at RDN, noted, “The program was a great opportunity for us to learn and build relationships with our cohort, to explore opportunities we had not considered before, and to focus on the next steps to implement those opportunities.”
ActionDignity, another participating grantee partner, is a community-based organization in Calgary that works with grassroots ethnocultural organizations to strengthen communities and bring about systems change. The Fund supports ActionDignity’s advocacy of decent work and the organization’s efforts to empower racialized essential workers to better understand their rights and effectively advocate on their own behalf.
For ActionDignity, the Thriving Non-Profits program helped the team think about fundraising and development beyond the usual sources. The program moved ActionDignity from theory into developing an actionable plan around grants, donations, fees-for-service, and partnerships.
The opportunity to work with a coach was a notable highlight. Coaching support helped the organization break down into manageable chunks the daunting task of developing a financial diversification action plan and provided ActionDignity with valuable insights and feedback.
ActionDignity reflected on the importance of capacity-building programs for professionals in the non-profit sector. Francis Boakye, executive director at ActionDignity, said, “Thriving Non-Profits provided the members of the ActionDignity leadership and development team with a common language and common tools that we can use to move our agenda forward collectively, cohesively, and confidently.”
To learn more about the Thriving Non-Profits program, visit thrivingnonprofits.ca