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Nonprofits: This federal election is the time to step it up!

Let’s talk, nonprofit leaders.

This federal election provides nonprofits with a chance to kick start an important conversation for our sector: what role does (and should) nonprofits play in democracy? How can the nonprofit sector build a healthier democracy?

You’ve likely heard the depressing statistics: voting rates have declined by 14% in the past three decades; youth and newcomers are less likely to vote; a full 39% of Canadians say they haven’t had a political conversation in the last year. This hurts democracy, but it also makes the work of charities and nonprofits more challenging. When there are less people on the ladder of engagement, we lose the ability to be aware of community needs, to be better advocates and to shape thriving communities.

Democracy: Ladder of engagement

Bridging the gap

According to the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer, nonprofits groups are the most trusted of groups- more so than business, media organizations and politicians. This unique position allows nonprofits to hear what’s happening on the ground, as well as develop and amplify the voices of Canadians widely. Fundamentally, nonprofits form a vital bridge between communities and government: it’s our role- and our responsibility- to invest in the democratic engagement of the people and communities that we serve, and create public policy.

Nonprofits step up

Democracy is not only about voting. As Nick Saul of Community Food Centres Canada rightly points out, “democracy is a muscle you need to use. Right now there is atrophy of this muscle in Canada.”

Nonprofits need to walk the walk, talk about our role in democracy boldly and share it passionately in our work, especially with other stakeholders like government, funders and businesses.

ONN and Samara believe leadership is key: from Boards of Directors to Executive Directors, volunteers to frontline staff, we want nonprofits to support the deliberate, intentional development of leadership to take on the responsibility of being vocal champions of democracy.

With this in mind, ONN and Samara created Nonprofits Step Up, a new infographic that puts these bold statements into an eye-catching narrative. We hope that it resonates with both you and your work, because when nonprofits are actively involved in government and communities, Canada’s democracy becomes stronger and everyone benefits. We’ve outlined 6 Roles Nonprofits Can Play and now it’s your turn:

What role do you want the sector to play in a democracy? What’s at stake?

This election is prime opportunity to have these conversations within our organizations and communities, and with our funders, partners and even election candidates. But it’s not just for the next 10 weeks. Nonprofits can, and should be, part of democratic engagement in between elections, too.

Share it, post it, print it

Nonprofit leaders, like you, can help shape the role of nonprofits in Canada’s democracy. So, what are you doing to help? Both ONN and Samara will be actively sharing resources and tools from nonprofits across Canada.

Join us in this conversation, share what you are doing this election on social media using #elxn42, and think about what will come after the federal election. We’re eager to hear from you!

Sample tweets and posts

@o_n_n    @SamaraCda

Nonprofits step up for #elxn42. Nonprofits make democracy stronger. Vibrant democracy = thriving communities. http://bit.ly/1J27VEn

Nonprofits enable democracy! @[organizationl handle] is a proud supporter of democracy  http://bit.ly/1J27VEn #elxn42  (e.g.  Nonprofits enable democracy! @SamaraCda is a proud supporter of democracy  http://bit.ly/1J27VEn #elxn42)

Here are 6 roles nonprofits can play in strengthening democracy: http://bit.ly/1J27VEn #nfp4democracy

A few resources

Nonprofits Step Up

Election Rules for Nonprofits: Explained

Vote Pop Ups

Citizen Sparks

Food Secure Canada: Eat Think Vote


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