Polarization, giving trends, equity, HR issues, reconciliation, the data gap, the climate crisis: we asked leaders in Canada’s non-profit and charitable sector about the challenges and societal shifts they’ll be watching in 2023. Here’s what they had to say.
Early in 2022, 40 Indigenous women from across the country came together for a gathering in Haida Gwaii, BC, called “Aunties in Philanthropy.”
Like so many events in recent years, it was marred by uncertainty – and cut short by COVID – but the gathering created a place for Indigenous women to talk about the outsized weight on their shoulders as conversations in Canadian philanthropy increasingly focus on reconciliation and equity.
Liz Liske, director of the Arctic Funders Collaborative, was one of the participants. “Our cups were filled up again,” she says, noting the experience helped her get through the year. “It just gave us the strength to be able to continue on with the work that we do.”
Investing in people working in the charitable and philanthropic sector – particularly those in equity-deserving groups – may well be a theme in 2023, as a tired and overstretched workforce deals with a still-uncertain future marked by financial challenges and increased demand for services.
It’s not only the massive changes that everyone is grappling with right now, but also the rate of change.Daimen Hardie, Community Forests International
As economic pressures continue to strain the sector, it’s also facing increasing calls to turn words into action on a broad spectrum of issues, from reconciliation to HR issues to climate change to values alignment in investing. At the same time, legislative changes could open new doors for charitable activities in 2023.
“It’s not only the massive changes that everyone is grappling with right now, but also the rate of change,” says Daimen Hardie, co-founder and executive director at Community Forests International, which is based in Atlantic Canada on unceded Mi
'kmaq and Wolastoqiyik lands. “In one quarter, we probably experience the same amount of change as people would have experienced in a year or more in the previous century.”
The pressure is on, he says, as organizations exist in the tension between trying to alleviate the immediate problems society is facing – cost of living, housing, healthcare, and others – at the same time as they try to address massive long-term crises like climate change.
Meanwhile, as Gladys Ahovi, president and CEO of the Foundation for Black Communities, points out, the pandemic is not over. “The role of foundations, charities, and non-profits continues to evolve,” she says, adding that the sector continues to adapt to new impacts of COVID-19.
As charities, non-profits, and foundations navigate the turbulent waters, The Philanthropist Journal spoke to sector leaders about the challenges and societal shifts to watch in 2023.
Improving the financial health of the sector
The charitable and philanthropic sector continues to struggle, with talk of a recession on the horizon in 2023 and inflation continuing to raise costs. According to a May 2022 survey from the Ontario Nonprofit Network, 83% of organizations surveyed saw an increase in costs, and nearly three-quarters saw an increase in demand for services. Similar trends have been reported across the country.
Many organizations are still in a place of ‘How are we going to survive?’Bruce MacDonald, Imagine Canada
It’s been what Bruce MacDonald, CEO of Imagine Canada, dubs a “triple whammy”: the end of federal COVID-19 supports, the prolonged period of inflation, and the fallout from a continued loss of revenue. As a result, MacDonald says, “many organizations are still in a place of ‘How are we going to survive?’”
Of course, it is not just the bottom lines in the charitable sector that are affected by economic woes. Many Canadians are struggling and are increasingly looking to charities for help. Increased demand for services has been a trend throughout the pandemic, but at the end of 2022, 34% of non-profits said they expected yet another increase in demand in the near future.
The holidays, a crucial time for charitable donations, have not been as lucrative in recent years. As a result of rising prices and economic uncertainty, less than half of Canadians intended to donate during the 2022 holiday season, according to Imagine Canada’s holiday giving survey.
Andreae Sennyah, director of policy with Cardus, points to tax credits as a tool to encourage donations. “The tax credit is a recognition from governments that individual Canadians are supporting charities and that has a public benefit,” she says.
The tax credit is a recognition from governments that individual Canadians are supporting charities and that has a public benefit.Andreae Sennyah, Cardus
Even so, “Canada already has the most beneficial charitable-donation tax credit system in the Western world,” according to Paul Nazareth with the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, though he notes tax credits have typically been utilized more by wealthy Canadians than by the general public. “There’s an opportunity to democratize this,” he says.
Sennyah suggests a simple tweak could enable Canadians to give more, and she’s hopeful there could be movement on it in 2023, particularly in Ontario, which has one of the lowest charitable tax credits in Canada.
Charities will have to position themselves as more than a place to put money.Musu Taylor-Lewis, Canadian Foodgrains Bank
Nazareth is encouraged by technological changes that make it easier for Canadians to donate money, noting that organizations that used to shake nickels in tin cans can now use tap technology to solicit donations on the spot. Individuals can get tax receipts and organizations can get data and establish ongoing relationships, he says, a far cry from what was possible with coin drives.
Musu Taylor-Lewis, director of resources and public engagement at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, points to the possible recession as potentially having big impacts on already declining donations. “Relational fundraising practices that are more about maintaining and building relationships with supporters rather than more direct marketing practices are what will ensure charities will be able to maintain support. Charities will have to position themselves as more than a place to put money,” she says, noting the emphasis needs to be more on a values-aligned relationship between charities and donors.
Pushing for equity + representation that creates culture change
As the pandemic’s long tail continues to reveal inequities faced by different groups, the pressure is on the sector, more than ever, to ensure organizations are as diverse as the people they seek to serve.
“How do we maintain momentum on work that we’ve been talking about for the last two years?” asks Taylor-Lewis, who is also the co-chair of the Task Force for Accountability hosted by the Anti-Racism Cooperation (ARC) Hub. She lists decolonization, anti-racism, and localization as crucial conversations that need to continue in 2023, and notes that action also needs to be taken – looking both inwards and outwards at ways to improve.
Ahovi has seen many positive changes when it comes to awareness of equity issues and funding for Black communities in the past two years. That, she says, is the result of “a very public and urgent outcry for things to happen differently. The concern is what happens when that outcry is not as loud.”
Representation is the easy part and culture shift is the hard part.Devika Shah, Environment Funders Canada
Jessica Bolduc, executive director of the 4Rs Youth Movement, wants to make sure equity work is not just about bringing in diverse staff and board members, but also about asking “Are we actually making those spaces safe and inclusive? … Or are we just bringing people into existing structures and cultures?”
“Representation is the easy part and culture shift is the hard part,” says Devika Shah, executive director of Environment Funders Canada. “It’s not a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination. It requires a lot of tact and bringing people along.”
We need to challenge the way we seek talent, and the way we recognize it.Gladys Ahovi, Foundation for Black Communities
The coming year will be one of continued learning and new approaches, like that of the Foundation for Black Communities, which has submitted a proposal to establish the federal government’s $200-million Black-Led Philanthropic Endowment Fund.
The foundation took a novel approach to recruiting board members and relied on nominations from the Black community, hoping to find people who were not already working in philanthropy. “We need to challenge the way we seek talent, and the way we recognize it,” says Ahovi. “It was important to ensure community had a say in the governance structure by nominating people to guide and steward the organization. There is great strength at the community level,” she says, noting it’s time- and labour-intensive but well worth it.
Addressing employee burnout and HR issues
Last year, Imagine Canada’s MacDonald noted “storm clouds on the horizon” for the sector’s ability to attract and retain talent. In 2023, he says, “the storm clouds are still rumbling. And depending on where you are, you’re standing in a thunderstorm.”
The pandemic and associated crises have meant the “cumulative drain on people is worse than ever,” says Hardie. “If this is the existential work of our generation, then it should be paid appropriately. That’s the challenge. People doing the work are asked to make a financial sacrifice.”
Paloma Raggo, assistant professor at Carleton University’s School of Public Policy and Administration and principal investigator of the Charity Insights Canada Project, says sector leaders are focusing a lot on staff recruitment and retention. “The sector previously had an edge because there was this long-standing assumption that the sector offers more flexibility and there is more understanding of work–life balance,” she says. “In practice, I’m not convinced that’s the case.”
If this is the existential work of our generation, then it should be paid appropriately.Daimen Hardie
A 2022 report about improving working conditions in Canadian non-profits, which noted that workers in community non-profits are paid nearly $20,000 less per year than the economy-wide average, found that common funding practices include “underfunding, short-term contracts, and extensive monitoring and reporting requirements,” all of which can be a drain on employees.
“There’s a long-standing question of mental health in the sector,” says Raggo. “COVID was brewing a lot of burnout.”
2023 could be a time when non-profits can look seriously at their salary scales and find ways to meet the current reality that people can’t work for such low wages.Juniper Glass, Lumiere Consulting
This year, says Juniper Glass, principal of Lumiere Consulting, “could be a time when non-profits can look seriously at their salary scales and find ways to meet the current reality that people can’t work for such low wages.”
In a time when the sector is facing less revenue and increased demand for services, Glass says leaders “have to really rethink what’s needed: paring down what they offer, becoming more focused, and doing more of what they do really well and letting go of what they don’t need to do.”
Taylor-Lewis points to the rise of remote work as having a big impact on HR in 2023. “None of us will be competing in local markets for talent anymore,” she says. “It’s a benefit in that we have a bigger talent pool – the options for diversity and inclusion in our workplaces will be huge. At the same time, you will have to compete at a national level for things like salary and benefits.”
Not only are organizations needing to rethink staffing issues, but volunteering is also not returning to pre-pandemic normals. The Ontario Nonprofit Network found that 62% of organizations have lost volunteers.
It all adds up to what the ONN has dubbed “a relentless HR and volunteer crisis.”
For Taylor, there could be a silver lining when it comes to thinking about volunteers. “There’s a huge opportunity to rethink volunteers and to think about provincial or national action plans for volunteerism so that we continue to embed that spirit in our democracy and our citizens.”
Implementing new rules on non-qualified donees
The CRA released its draft guidance for registered charities making grants to non-qualified donees in late November and will accept public feedback until January 31.
“We now have a new legal pathway to broaden partnerships,” says Jean-Marc Mangin, president and CEO of Philanthropic Foundations Canada. “This could become the most significant change to the regulatory framework of the last 25 years.”
This could become the most significant change to the regulatory framework of the last 25 years.Jean-Marc Mangin, Philanthropic Foundations Canada
Senator Ratna Omidvar, who has long championed the changes, is cautiously optimistic that the changes will “expand the flow of money from charities and philanthropy to non-qualified donees that are serving the most disadvantaged people.”
“The proof will be in the pudding,” she says, of how the new rules impact funding of on-the-ground work. She’s hopeful the sector will undertake an effort to advance education on the matter. “The door has been opened. The question is whether the charitable dollars will flow through that door.”
You can change all the rules … but that also requires the funder to build a relationship with non-qualified donees.Andrew Chunilall, Community Foundations of Canada
Others are concerned the new rules don’t allow for communities or organizations to receive funding as had been hoped. “So far it looks like there will still be challenges to fund non-qualified donees,” Ahovi says. “There’s some flexibility but not as much as we had hoped to see.”
As Andrew Chunilall, CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, points out, there are challenges and learning curves for funders looking to establish relationships with non-qualified donees. “Oftentimes we say the barriers are regulatory, but the real barriers are relational,” he says. “You can change all the rules … but that also requires the funder to build a relationship with non-qualified donees.”
Is this really going to change the way things are, just because it’s allowed?Paul Nazareth, Canadian Association of Gift Planners
Nazareth is concerned that changing the rules around non-qualified donees is not enough to ensure that more funds flow to new groups, highlighting that the challenges are more around equity than tax rules. “If we don’t solve the underlying issues, no amount of math is going to solve this,” he says. “Is this really going to change the way things are, just because it’s allowed?”
Taking real action on reconciliation
There is hope that new rules around non-qualified donees will increase the flow of funds to Indigenous and racialized communities, particularly Indigenous-led projects.
“I hope 2023 continues to empower Indigenous people,” says Killulark Arngna
'naaq, Northern program manager at MakeWay. “With truth and reconciliation and more support on the national level of Indigenous people, there’s been a small flame that’s been lit. And I hope it continues to grow and grow.”
If you’re a white settler philanthropist trying to come into Indigenous community and you want to help … you could see pushback or hesitancy. Our experience with settler people in general hasn’t been a good one.Liz Liske, Arctic Funders Collaborative
Liske with the Arctic Funders Collaborative says that Indigenous people “are trending” and there’s a lot of buzz about “putting the power in our hands,” but she’s hesitant about how much progress is being made. She sees a challenge when it comes to developing relationships – and trust – between funders and Indigenous communities. “Two worlds exist, and we don’t know how to combine them,” she says. “If you’re a white settler philanthropist trying to come into Indigenous community and you want to help … you could see pushback or hesitancy. Our experience with settler people in general hasn’t been a good one.”
She sees potential for funders to be more open in how they approach these relationships. Too often, she says, the initiation of relationships starts on the side of the funder, with many saying they don’t accept unsolicited grant applications. “Why do you think you are the one that has to start it? And why can’t it be the other way around?” she says.
Liske hopes 2023 is a year for rethinking relationships with Indigenous communities.
“All Indigenous people are touched by trauma. Being trauma-informed is really important, but it’s also important not to focus on the trauma,” she says, noting she encourages funders to focus on healing-centred engagement – culturally appropriate engagement that seeks to find holistic solutions. “As Indigenous people, we do this work and we’re expected to represent Indigenous people,” she says. “We do this all while working and healing through our own traumas. That’s one thing I always have to remind not only funders, but also ourselves, of.”
Embracing more unrestricted uses of charitable funds
In recent years, many have dubbed MacKenzie Scott – who has quietly allocated billions of dollars to hundreds of charitable organizations – a leader in trust-based philanthropy. In 2022, MakeWay announced it was one of the recipients of Scott’s funding: US$15 million, no strings attached.
'naaq of MakeWay, who has practised trust-based philanthropy as a grantor for years, to be on the receiving end of so few administrative requirements was still a pleasant surprise. “It made so many aspects of our work a lot easier just having unrestricted funding to go into program areas that we wanted to support previously but didn’t necessarily have a lot of funding for,” she says. “It’s a nice relief.”
Organizations have been asking for core funding – or flexibility in how we use money – for a really long time.Jessica Bolduc, 4Rs Youth Movement
Perhaps more than ever before, the sector is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of limiting restrictions on funding. “Core funding is a crucial tool to help the non-profit sector prepare for and weather crises, such as public health emergencies and economic downturns,” says Imagine Canada, which led a campaign to ask the government to make core funding for non-profits a priority in Budget 2023.
“There’s something interesting and potentially important about those conversations that are happening, because I think that those are the kinds of things that would actually help to support more [Indigenous or racialized] organizations,” says Bolduc. She is encouraged to see action, but she notes that these asks aren’t new. “Organizations have been asking for core funding – or flexibility in how we use money – for a really long time,” she says.
Seeing the impact of new DQ rules
Significant changes for the disbursement quota (DQ) were finally unveiled in 2022. Charitable foundations with investment assets over $1 million must now spend a minimum of 5% – up from 3.5% – on grants or charitable activities.
Data from Imagine Canada suggests that $200 million in new spending could be released as a result of the higher DQ.
But there are concerns the higher DQ may hurt smaller foundations. “With larger private or community foundations, granting has always been a function of investment returns, not necessarily the disbursement quota floor,” Chunilall says. “The floor has a role to play, but it’s not going to have a direct impact on what the large foundations are doing. … And I think it disproportionately hurts smaller foundations.”
With larger private or community foundations, granting has always been a function of investment returns, not necessarily the disbursement quota floor.Andrew Chunilall
Data from Imagine Canada has found that smaller foundations faced more challenges meeting the former quota than larger ones.
Smaller foundations, as Chunilall points out, are more likely to struggle to have higher market returns because of reduced access to investment managers, or their need to have more of their investment return devoted to internal capacity-building.
A wide range of opinions exists about scaling the DQ based on the size of an organization’s endowment, with some suggesting the new DQ shouldn’t apply to anything under $20 million. This will likely be a year of continued debate as organizations put the new DQ into practice.
Meanwhile, concerns remain about whether increasing the DQ will mean “more money will simply be given to the usual suspects in the usual ways” and whether smaller, rural, or remote organizations – or organizations led by or serving Indigenous or racialized communities – will stand to benefit.
Making progress on the data analysis gap
“On the data side, there’s some really good news,” Taylor says, noting that ONN plans to launch its data strategy framework in March. There are, she says, “three buckets” of data to look at: collecting new data, re-examining data the sector already holds, and utilizing data the government has to its full potential.
“In the sector as a whole, there’s a real appetite to change our data practices,” says Charity Insights’ Raggo, who says that people want meaningful engagement with data rather than a more extractive approach. Data sovereignty is also front of mind: “We need to decolonize the data,” she says. “We get answers to the questions we ask, we find the things we look for. What if what we are looking for is a product of the biases we bring in?”
We need to decolonize the data. We get answers to the questions we ask, we find the things we look for. What if what we are looking for is a product of the biases we bring in?Paloma Raggo, Charity Insights Canada
Omidvar also hopes to make progress on data in 2023, saying she plans to table legislation that would result in more data being collected on governance and diversity within charities, similar to legislation that already exists for Canada’s federally regulated businesses.
Another area where data collection could be expanded is in relation to investments. Mangin points to the possibility of tracking impact investing, so the sector has a better idea of where endowments are being invested. The government, he says, could add to the T-3010 form to get a better idea of the asset classes when endowment funds are being invested.
Raggo would like to see an improvement in the quality of data collected. “Government is really good at making data available,” she says. “But the quality of the data is something that needs to change or needs to be improved. Without good data, we don’t have good answers – and we can’t make good decisions.”
Overall, 2023 will be a year that highlights the need for increased willingness for transparency. “I would love to see a commitment among the philanthropic sector to making information about their granting as open and transparent as possible,” Shah says, noting she’d like to see that data fed into an open-access platform so it’s possible to more accurately assess where gaps are.
Still pushing for a home in government
There are more than 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations in Canada. Yet leaders in the sector still don’t have any one point of contact in government – a home that could take the form of some kind of secretariat or coordinating body: a sort of liaison to bolster the relationship between government and the sector, as well as to educate policy-makers.
“We are continuing to push for a home in government,” says Imagine Canada’s MacDonald. “Whether it’s this budget or the next one, really our goal is to ensure that in the next year or so we are seeing some results as it relates to having some kind of permanent group inside the federal government that truly understands the sector.”
Taylor points to the parliamentary secretary in BC as a successful example, noting the province’s $30-million investment in the Recovery and Resiliency Fund for the non-profit sector. That, she says, was possible in part because the sector has someone within government at the table who understands the sector and advocates on its behalf. “Many other provinces have advocated for that kind of stabilization funding and were not successful.”
Still, a home in government has been dubbed a “double-edged sword.” As Carleton University political scientist Susan Phillips told The Philanthropist Journal in November, it “could be more dangerous than helpful if you don’t have a strong voice on the other side.”
Without a home in government you don’t get central, focused support.Paloma Raggo
Raggo agrees that there are potential drawbacks, but she notes that it’s “bizarre, really,” that a sector that represents 10% of the full-time work force is not represented in government.
“Bureaucratic inertia is a real thing,” she says, noting she worries that the slow nature of government might hinder the flexibility the sector sometimes currently benefits from. At the same time, she says, “without a home in government you don’t get central, focused support.”
Embracing a hybrid model for work in context of COVID
With even the federal government mandating at least a part-time return to in-person work in 2023, it’s clear that many are returning to workplaces, at least part-time. At the same time, virtual options are at an all-time high.
For communities in the North, the increase in virtual options has been a game-changer. “The North has historically had terrible connectivity that has always been expensive, extremely limited, and slow,” says Arngna
'naaq of MakeWay, noting that getting anywhere from Yellowknife, where she is, generally takes two flights, and for people outside the capitals, travelling to the south can take two to three days. The pandemic, she says, has meant “there’s been an increase in infrastructure for making connectivity more accessible.”
The pandemic has meant there’s been an increase in infrastructure for making connectivity more accessible.Killulark Arngna
The trend toward a hybrid work model, Ahovi says, is “great for some and not so great for others.” The Foundation for Black Communities, which was founded in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, got its entire board and staff team together in person for the first time in January. “It was a really powerful gathering,” says Ahovi, who had never met all her colleagues in person before. “The ability to think out loud, brainstorm out loud, celebrate out loud, and sometimes even cry out loud … is a very powerful experience, and you can forget that until you have a person sitting across the table from you.”
At the same time, she notes, the foundation is national, and there’s no way to bring everyone into the same office every day. Navigating a virtual workplace requires nuance, she says, and learning new ways of doing things.
Rethinking leadership models
“A lot of organizations are questioning the executive director model,” says Glass, noting that organizations are increasingly “trying to figure out how to work in a team that distributes leadership and power.”
Organizations like the Canadian Council for Refugees are among those considering decentralized leadership models. Instead of one executive director, the council announced late last year that it would be hiring three co-executive directors.
New leadership models like these, Glass says, help organizations take equity and inclusion seriously. “That hierarchy has been done in the past is part of what keeps power in the hands of the few.”
Embracing impact financing
Calls for alignment between investment portfolios and charitable missions will continue to grow in 2023.
Shah sees increased energy around impact investing, particularly in the environmental sphere, where, she says, organizations are realizing that “ESG doesn’t cut it” and that more in-depth screening for values is necessary, with some organizations hiring people in-house to do this work.
We collectively hold a lot of assets and can actually be an impactful player in the financial markets.Devika Shah
“We collectively hold a lot of assets and can actually be an impactful player in the financial markets,” she says. And enthusiasm for this idea, she says, is at an “all-time high,” pointing to examples like the Great Canadian ESG Championship, a competition developed and led by the Trottier Foundation and based on the idea that organizations should “use their endowments to achieve their missions, as well as solid financial returns.”
This will increasingly become attainable. “There are opportunities for social financing and impact financing that provide a return on investment and a social return as well,” says Mangin, though he notes “the market is still underdeveloped.”
Acknowledging the urgency of the climate crisis
Late last year, the environment-focused Ivey Foundation – one of Canada’s oldest private family foundations – announced it was winding down entirely. It has donated more than $100 million to charities since 1947, and as it distributes its full endowment, another $100 million over the next five years, its board has a message for the philanthropic community: “Philanthropic resources can, and in some cases should, be fully utilized for the most critical issues we face today.” That, says MacDonald, sends “a monumental signal to the rest of the sector.”
The sector is also beginning to recognize the long-standing importance of supporting Indigenous Peoples in leading the charge on climate and conservation work. “Stewardship of the land has rested with Indigenous people since time immemorial,” Arngna
'naaq says. “It’s a concept that the rest of Canada is just getting caught up on.” In 2023, grantors may increasingly look to Indigenous-led work on environment and climate issues.
Indigenous-led conservation is the ethical approach, says Community Forests International’s Hardie. “We’ll never be able to remediate past injustices. That doesn’t mean there’s not an urgency to stop injustices happening now,” he says. “It’s so much about theft of land … there’s such an important role funders and organizations can play in land-back and land-based conservations.” Not only that, he says, “it’s the most effective pathway to avert biodiversity crisis and climate crisis.”
Shah says that Canadian society – not just the non-profit sector – needs to take urgent action to move away from capitalist values that are detrimental to the environment. On her 2023 wish list, she says, is for “government assets to be reallocated from things that are part of the world we’re trying to move away from and put toward the non-profit sector.” That, she says, could include redirecting funds for fossil-fuel subsidies or rethinking controversial infrastructure projects and instead funnelling more public funds toward charities and non-profits.
All organizations need to become climate organizations to some capacity. And funders, if they want to support climate action, need to realize now is the time. Don’t wait.Daimen Hardie
As dire as the climate crisis is, there is hope that action now can significantly reshape the world – for the better – for generations to come. “I wish more people understood how the climate crisis is proceeding and how we do have so much influence over the present and future well-being of people on this earth, more than ever before,” says Hardie. “For better or worse, people are now the biggest factor of change on the planet.”
But, he adds, “the window is closing. The time is now. All organizations need to become climate organizations to some capacity. And funders, if they want to support climate action, need to realize now is the time. Don’t wait.” Funding climate action can mean releasing more funds, spending down endowments now, or even having more flexibility in granting, he says.
The charitable sector has long sought to be apolitical, but with increasing polarization the sector will need to continue to reckon with its role in a deeply fractured society.
Cardus’s Sennyah is adamant that governments need to depolarize decisions related to the sector. Government attempts to question the charitable status of groups that are following all the rules have a “chilling effect on the rest of the sector,” she says, noting that charities may wonder if a change in government ideology may mean they’re next.
We can play a role in building community and strengthening relationships. Those kinds of activities do depolarize.Cathy Taylor, Ontario Nonprofit Network
Taylor calls discussions of polarization as it relates to the sector an emerging area. “We can play a role in building community and strengthening relationships. Those kinds of activities do depolarize,” she says. But to do that means there must be continued effort to reach beyond the choir.
“I worry a lot about us siloing off with other like-minded leaders and people and leading change in a little bubble, while other change is being led in a completely different way in a completely different bubble. And each of us have smaller bubbles to deal with, because we’re not joining forces,” Shah says. “It’s as simple as making a commitment to not ending up in those silos. It’s about outreach to people who see things differently than you. It’s about finding ways to create opportunities for dialogue and to hear different viewpoints.”
Navigating technological change
Publicly available artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT made headlines in late 2022, and AI tools can already complete myriad tasks, from generating art from a few text prompts to writing your best man’s speech. It’s what Hardie sees as a “non-linear leap in technology.”
These tools are taking the world by storm – and have huge implications for work of all kinds.
“Our inclination is to try to use them to do more good,” Hardie says, though he’s wary of their ethical implications. He worries the increasingly diverse roster of creators hired by the sector will be displaced by AI. “Technology becomes so compelling, it’s irresistible,” he says, but, he asks, “Who do we look to for guidance on ethical questions?”
I can’t tell you how many sector leaders confide that they’ve already fallen victim to ransomware attacks, phishing scams, and other threats to operations and data.Katie Gibson, CIO Strategy Council
Not all technological advancements are positive, and some leaders caution that organizations need to ensure that their defences are up to snuff. “I’m optimistic this is the year non-profits get serious about cybersecurity,” says Katie Gibson, vice-president of strategy and partnerships with the CIO Strategy Council. “I can’t tell you how many sector leaders confide that they’ve already fallen victim to ransomware attacks, phishing scams, and other threats to operations and data.” She points to high-profile cyber incidents like the one at the Hospital for Sick Children in December, when the organization reported a “code grey” system failure, as having the potential to raise awareness of the risks.
“As non-profits become more data-driven, they’re becoming stewards of large amounts of sensitive data,” Gibson says. “If they collect it, they need to protect it.”
If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s the difficulty of predicting the future – we can expect 2023 to be another chapter in what MacDonald calls “an era of uncertainty.”
“Many organizations will be challenged to make it through, frankly. Others will continue to chug along,” Taylor says. But, she adds, this uncertainty can also change the sense of what’s possible. “There’s a different energy of working together – of disrupting the status quo and thinking differently.” That, she says, should give us all a lot of hope.
Jean-Marc Mangin puts it simply: “In the midst of every crisis, there are opportunities.”