B.C. non-profit network could help with labour shortage in charitable sector

Non-profits say they’re struggling to keep quality volunteers and staff due to high burnout – a problem that’s getting worse with inadequate funding for competitive benefits and wages.

In an industry report conducted by Vantage Point, approximately 230 survey respondents say they’re spending more time or money on staff recruitment and retention. As the charitable sector faces a labour shortage, community organizations like hua foundation say creating a province-wide non-profit network can help.

Kevin Huang, hua foundation’s executive director, is familiar with this problem. He’s also a community advisor with Vancouver Foundation, helping it identify where best to direct funding.

Kevin Huang (far right) pictured at hua foundation’s “Reimagine Work” fundraiser in 2019. | Photo by Christina Lee.

“I feel the sector often is saddled with the idea that it’s lower pay. Benefits, especially for smaller organizations, are not always offered,” says Huang.

Huang has been working hard to provide employees with benefits and learning opportunities. He says when there’s a high turnover of staff and volunteers, institutional knowledge and key relationships built upon trust with community members are lost.

“That history and track record: where we started, how far we’ve come, where we can go next,” he explains.

Staff at hua foundation have basic benefits, a living wage and a four-day work week, but Huang also wants to give them pension and subsidies for working from home.

“These are proactive measures the board and I have been trying to provide staff as a way to honour their time, experiences and choice to work with us,” he says.

The need for a B.C. non-profit network

Kevin Huang (far left) with hua foundation’s past and current board members. | Photo courtesy of hua foundation.

Huang managed to provide health benefits through a small business program at Vancity, but he hasn’t been able to find an insurer for their pension.

“A lot of insurers or pension plans don’t want to deal with three people. They want to do the math for 100 or 1000,” he says.

Huang says that’s a structural problem that can be solved by a B.C. non-profit network, where people can come together for a common need.

“I’m not the only one who’s been pushing for more accessible benefits for the nonprofit sector,” he says.

Huang says it’s not easy for small organizations to fundraise and secure the money they need, but they continue to provide services. That’s why multi-year, sustainable funding can help non-profits alleviate the burnout and staffing shortages they face, he says. It’s a solution that can be advocated through the network, says Huang. It’s also a solution that’s been identified by Vantage Point in its report.

“That provides an opportunity for organizations to breathe a little, to test ideas… instead of this mentality of always chasing your grant,” he says. “It gives you the opportunity to be like, ‘Hey, what can we do differently?’”

Vantage Point building the network

In 2023, Vantage Point conducted a feasibility study with 655 non-profit leaders across the province. They found a majority want to create a non-profit network to deal with systemic issues and they’re excited by the idea.

They identified four major potential benefits it can have: sharing resources and best practices, collective advocacy, creating learning opportunities and improving funding and support from government and foundations.

Vantage Point is now developing a three-year workplan for the network. That includes a governance model, a steering committee or advisory council and a sustainable funding model. During this critical stage of development, it’s seeking partners to make this vision a reality.

Vancouver Foundation is a proud supporter of the project, contributing $100,000 per year for three years.

For more information, visit: www.thevantagepoint.ca/join/bc-nonprofit-network

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