Government Relations and your charity

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Tulips on Parliament Hill in May

On a recent CAGP national webinar, I spoke on the topic of government relations for charities in Canada.

The main topics I covered were:

(1) What is government relations in the context of charities in Canada?

(2) Why should your charity be involved in government relations?

(3) How can charities develop strong working relationships with government?

(4) Becoming a partner with the charitable sector in government relations

Government Relations – A definition 

In researching this topic, I was struck by the large amount of material in Canada on government relations to support the charitable and volunteer sectors as a whole. To my surprise, I found very little information to support why a specific charity should be involved in government relations.  This struck me as rather odd since most of my work over the past twenty years dealing with government has been working for a specific charity.

For the presentation, I drew upon the terrific volunteers I have worked with over the years who have headed federal, provincial and municipal governments and my personal relationships with both entry level and senior public servants across Canada.

I defined government relations as:

Any lawful activity carried out by a registered Canadian charity which seeks to further its mission by improving government policies. Government relations take place municipally, provincially and nationally or sometimes simultaneously at all three levels, and involve elected officials, political advisors and public servants.

Please note the word “lawful” in the above definition. I do not deal with the ever evolving case law and regulations in regard to advocacy and lobbying in Canada. This is an area where charities should seek legal counsel.

Why should your charity be involved in government relations?

Firstly, stemming from the above definition, the goal in my view should be to further the mission of your charity and secondly to move forward the strategic priorities of your organization.

How can your charity develop strong working relationships with government? 

Very much akin to successful major and planned giving fundraising, the key is to build relationships with individuals who are key public servants and political leaders in your community. How you define “community” will be based on the geographic scope of your mission and what levels of government are responsible for public policy relating to your organization.

Examples of key players in government for your charity could be:

(i) Municipal public servants involved in your charity’s area of responsibilities;

(ii) Local members of a provincial legislature and cabinet representatives involved with your charity’s mission; and

(iii) Federal officials responsible for public policy and/or implementing regulations in regard to your mission.

To build an effective working relationship with government, your charity needs to demonstrate:

(i) Its specific expertise and why it is needed in public policy;

(ii) The importance of its mission;

(iii) Measurable goals and results to move your mission forward;

(iv) The strength in numbers of your donor and volunteer base;  and

(v) Demonstrated support by local community leaders.

Partnering with the charitable sector 

In addition working with an incredible group of politicians and public servants over the years, I have been very impressed how organizations such as AFP and CAGP have worked with their members to encourage charitable giving, the volunteer sector and effective regulation of registered charities.  I pleased to be a member of CAGP’s Government Relations Committee to assist in this work.

Most of the admirable work on government relations has been undertaken by the staff of charities. In my view, it would be much more effective if these efforts were better coordinated with key donors and volunteer partners who gift planners and other staff work with every day from Main Street to Bay Street across Canada.

If the great human resources of the charitable sector are brought together in a more concerted effort, the missions of Canadian charities and the charitable sector will move forward with government to benefit all Canadians.

For assistance in regard to the work of your charity in government relations, please contact Grant Monck at grantmonck@gmail.com or 778-875-6220.

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