Representatives of the local non-profit community met this past Wednesday morning to discuss the formation of a local Chatham-Kent Non-Profit Network.

The meeting was a planned follow-up to an Ontario Non-Profit Network regional meeting hosted last November by the United Way of Chatham-Kent.

A small group of keeners from the charitable and non-profit sector came together to build a critical mass of support for those working – and volunteering – in what has also been referred to by a number of different names — the “social,” “third,” “voluntary” or “community benefit” sector of the community.

At the regional meeting in November, 55 participants were introduced to representatives of the Ontario Non-Profit Network – housed in Toronto – an organization established to serve non-profits across the province.

Our guests shared a profile of the nonprofit sector in Ontario – highlighting the fact that the sector has 46,000+ organizations and contributes over $50 billion in economic impact across the province.

The community non-profit sector, not including MUSH (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals) employs 600,000 workers and represents 2.6% of Ontario’s GDP.

At the same meeting, an infographic was shared showcasing additional community non-profit sector statistics.

One interesting point noted in the information was the fact that – across Canada –the non-profit sector contributes more to the gross domestic product (GDP) than other key industries – including motor vehicle manufacturing, agriculture and accommodation and food services. The GDP is the value of all goods and services produced in Canada.

Locally, the non-profit sector is committed to strengthening people, jobs and infrastructure. Our sector staff work daily to support and strengthen communities through innovative and results-based initiatives.

We, too, pay taxes, purchase goods and services and contribute gifts of time, talent and money.

But more education is necessary to drive home the importance of the sector within which we work and the roles we play.

The purpose of this week’s session was to begin the mobilization of local non-profit sector representatives from health, social services, culture and recreation and environment – and to gather information which will highlight the value of the sector to community economic development.

Those present were unanimous in their support of a vehicle through which to find its collective voice and to educate others about the role and mandate of a sector which is devoted to changing lives and building community.

Initiated by United Way and supported through a grant from the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, meeting participants for this inaugural meeting included staff and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, Restorative Justice, Ridgetown Rejuvenation Association, Buxton Historical Site and Museum, Family Service Kent, New Beginnings/ABI, and Ursuline Sisters.

Attendees focused on the challenges and opportunities facing them in the sector, identified upcoming policy issues which would affect the sector and proposed action steps focused on enhancing collaboration across the various sectors.

A highlight of the morning’s gathering was the viewing of Dan Pallotta’s TEDTalk entitled “The way we think about charity is dead wrong!” – which has now received over 2.8 million views and is now the 46th most-viewed TEDTalk of all time.

An activist and fundraiser, Dan Pallotta calls out the double standard that drives our broken relationship to charities. Too many non-profits, he says, are rewarded for how little they spend – not for what they get done. In other words, the impact of their work.

Instead of “equating frugality with morality,” he asks us “to start rewarding charities for their big goals and big accomplishments.” In this bold talk, he says: “Let’s change the way we think about changing the world.” I encourage each of my readers to take 20 minutes to view this video and to share it with others. Together we can transform the way society thinks about charity and giving and change.

The small steering committee will be meeting again in late February to pursue plans for a number of initiatives to be undertaken – collectively – in the weeks and months ahead.

If you are interested in being part of the new Chatham-Kent Non-Profit Network, please send me an e-mail at karen@uwock.ca and let me know. Good things are coming!