IPAC Chat is a monthly series prepared by members of the board of the Manitoba regional group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada.

This month’s post is prepared by IPAC Manitoba Board member, Bob Chrismas. Bob has been serving in the Winnipeg Police Service for 28 years and recently completed his PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Manitoba.


After a recent tour of Siloam Mission, I was almost brought to tears, seeing and learning about all of the compassionate services and support they provide for Winnipeg’s homeless population. They coordinate everything from three meals per day for hundreds of people, to eye and medical care, to a place to escape Winnipeg’s frigid weather at night.

Somewhat aghast, I declared to the Executive Director at the time, that it seems that all of these services should be provided by government. He responded with a statement that was an epiphany for me; “yes, but 6,000 people would not volunteer for the government.”

It really made me think about the important role that non-profits play in the spectrum of services that people in need receive in Winnipeg. There are over five thousand non-profits operating in Winnipeg, employing in the neighborhood of 100,000 people. The sector is massive, second only to government. While many receive Government funding, the majority have a variety of sources to support their important work.

As a volunteer director on the Board of the Manitoba Federation of Non-Profit Organizations (MFNPO), I’ve become acutely aware of the critical role that non-profits play in providing services in Manitoba. The MFNPO provides support and training for non-profits, and advice to government. This year, the MFNPO is conducting a study, gathering information and projecting trends and needs in the non-profit sector. The report will be out in March, 2018, but some of the initial findings are very interesting.

Workload analysis reveals that executive directors in the non-profit sector are jacks of all trades. They are generally paid less than their private and government counterparts; however, these stats can be misleading. Experts in the field point out that many non-profits are very small, and executive directors are often driven by values that see them giving up pay raises for their employees, and to keep programs running.

Among the challenges they face, non-profits are often burdened with making repeated funding requests, and having to dedicate large portions of their available human resources to accountability processes. Imagine an organization with three employees, and one has to spend a week writing proposals, rather than providing services.

So, what is the future of non-profit organizations in Manitoba? There seems to be a lot of room for more service sharing. Many non-profits do not have enough work to justify having full-time staff for tasks such as marketing, accounting, and legal. Resource sharing seems to be an opportunity that should be explored further. Rather than contracting an accountant, why not hire one between five organizations? Another significant issue for the future is changing demographics that see both an aging workforce and growing millennial population. The non-profit sector often appeals to older workers who want to do fulfilling and meaningful community service in the last years of their careers. Millennials, on the other hand, often work in the non-profit sector as a stepping stone to their desired later career. We can do a lot to improve credentials and branding the non-profit sector as a rewarding career path.

What are your thoughts on the role and future of the non-profit sector?


  1. Excellent blog on an important topic. Its good to be reminded of the size and the crucial role of the NGO sector and why it exists instead of having its work done by the government. The importance of volunteers and the enormous amount of energy and skills they contribute at not cost is one of our society most valuable resources. Nice summary of challenges facing the NGO sector and some ideas for addressing these.

    Sharing non core resources is a solid idea but requires its own NGO to set up the resources to be shared, get NGO’s to participate and coordinate ongoing operations of the shared service. Self coordination by individual NGO’s has not worked when tried by some groups I have been involved with because of the effort required to mobilize the resource sharing and to keep it functioning effectively.

    Liked by 1 person

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