Data matters. It helps us figure out how communities and people are doing. But there is a shortage of high-quality, relevant, and current data on the nonprofit labour force and economy in Ontario and Canada. The shortage of sector data makes it difficult to propose sector-wide solutions and to describe the sector’s economic and societal impacts


ONN is concerned about three issues around data:

Shortage of data. Governments, academics and researchers gather a lot of detailed information on labour markets and the economic impact of many sectors of Canada’s economy. But not on the nonprofit sector.  The two main ways data is classified in this country is by industry and  by job type. But those classifications don’t make clear the sector – so we don’t know if someone works in the nonprofit, for-profit or public sector. For example, computer engineers could work in any of the three sectors; and organizations falling under the industrial code of ‘retail trade’ ‘professional services’, ‘food services’ and more could be operating as a for-profit or a nonprofit.

Out-of-date nonprofit data: Out-of-date nonprofit data: Data that is specific to the nonprofit labour force consists of national surveys that are out of date. While Statistics Canada released new composite data on the nonprofit sector’s economic contribution in March 2019 after years of advocacy on the part of our sector, there is no commitment for ongoing data collection or a dedicated sector survey. And smaller-scale surveys that are not necessarily representative of the sector as a whole.

Lack of data sharing. Nonprofits and governments collect a great deal of operational, or administrative, data on the people they serve. But they don’t share this data. This is a missed opportunity. We think there could be great public benefit if nonprofits and governments figure out a confidential, responsible, standardardized, way to share that data. Sharing could promote new opportunities for measuring program outcomes, providing more collaborative care, and supporting evidence-based policy.

Data can help our sector:

  • Learn and communicate about impact
  • Deliver more responsive initiatives
  • Collaborate more efficiently and effectively
  • Diversify and stabilize our funding
  • Free up time and money
  • Step-up our role in the policy development process
  • See the bigger picture

Without a robust source of data on the nonprofit sector labour force — disaggregated by gender, race, and other dimensions of diversity — our sector cannot answer many questions that would allow it to engage in workforce planning and to assess challenges such as retention rates, training and development, equality in the workplace, and retirement planning. Without current economic impact information, it is more difficult to tell the important story of the sector’s contribution to society and make the case for more sustainable investment in our work.


Working to help nonprofits advance sector-wide solutions and tell their collective story thanks to powerful data

We’re advocating for the Ontario Government to:

  • Collect and share labour market information and economic impact data on the Ontario nonprofit sector, informed by advice from the sector, via the proposed Ontario Statistics Office, the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and other government offices
  • Collect and share openly nonprofit organizational data under the proposed business registry (to be implemented as part of the Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, or ONCA, by 2020)

We’re working with the Ontario nonprofit sector (and nonprofits across Canada) to:

  • Advocate for and inform Statistics Canada’s next general survey of the nonprofit sector in Canada so as to ensure data are usefully categorized and disaggregated (through Imagine Canada’s Data Working Group)
  • Explore administrative data-sharing for improved service delivery, innovation, research and development, and advocacy (in particular through a partnership with PoweredbyData and others)


Learn more:

Data Policy Coalition

Towards a Data Strategy for the Nonprofit Sector

Developing Big Data Analysis for Public Benefit

Demystifying data for the charitable sector, Imagine Canada

Data-ness, Tom Zizys