Welcome to the new, online version of The Philanthropist. When The Philanthropist was established in the early 1970s, its goals were not dissimilar to those of today—to be a forum for ideas and discussion within and for the charitable and not-for-profit sector. However, a few things have changed over the almost four decades since the journal’s founding.
Obviously, the technology of the Blackberry era is much different than that of the printing press era of the 1970s. Indeed, personal computers were not known, and The Philanthropist predated key developments that are commonplace today.
Other changes have occurred within the sector itself. While charitable and not-for-profit organizations have existed and been part of the social, economic, and cultural lives of Canadians, the role of these organizations has evolved. A review of articles in The Philanthropist over the decades documents some of these changes. You may want to page through back issues, which have been digitized and are readily available online. Some of these changes were also discussed in one of our theme issues—Vol. 19, No. 3. However you come to these changes, it is readily apparent that the sector is an important part of the lives of Canadians—and those who are served by Canadians outside Canada—but how the sector works reflects Canada of its day.
The last few decades have witnessed other significant changes, not the least of which has been the “professionalization” of the sector. Lawyers, accountants, consultants, and others are much more common as advisors in the sector than they were in the 1970s. Specializations have evolved, with numerous publications providing advice and commentary to the sector. Management within organizations has also become more specialized, with higher educational levels reflective of more sophisticated human resource needs. Umbrella organizations have also developed over the years to provide training and advice to specific parts of the sector or, as the case with Imagine Canada, to the sector as a whole.
The need for advice has grown, in part, because of the demand for greater accountability and transparency both by the sector itself and by those outside the sector. Accountability has been driven partly by a more enhanced regulatory structure and reporting system—compare the public information return to “Revenue Canada” in the 1980s to the current Charity Information Return now used by the Canada Revenue Agency. The person who completes the form must be much more informed about the law and accounting requirements in order to file today’s return. Understanding the disbursement quota is no longer a simple task.
While the need for training and education remains an important part of any journal devoted to the charitable and not-for-profit sector, there are other dynamics at play in Canada in the 21st century. The Philanthropist will continue to be a source of information for those who advise the sector and those who work within the sector. But we also want to meet the needs of the sector and those who work in and for the sector in a more meaningful and substantive way. The Internet and the new format provide an opportunity to do this in a way that could not be accomplished by a print journal.
Over the next few years, The Philanthropist will grow to meet your needs and those of the sector overall in a more strategic manner. We want to encourage discussion and debate in a more iterative way, to present opportunities for dialogue and for the building of consensus on those issues that matter to the sector, to assist in the research that is necessary for the sector to advance, and to be an important forum for those within the sector to work towards improving the sector. We cannot do this alone, of course.
If anything has been learned over the last few decades, it is that the sector needs to work together to meet the expectations of Canadians and those served by our sector.