An umbrella for the east coast

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Last year, CharityVillage reported on the imminent arrival of an official umbrella organization for nonprofits in Nova Scotia.

Late in December 2012, it finally happened. For the genesis of the story, readers can go back and read here and here.

Suffice it to say that it’s been a long time coming. Some five years of study, reports, consultations and surveys and one expertly assembled proposal to the government – courtesy the diligent and hard work of Lynne Toupin, former executive director of the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector and now expert sector consultant – has led to the recent announcement of the striking of the board and hiring of the first executive director of the newly minted Community Sector Council of NS (CSCNS).

As of last week, the council still did not have a website set up.

Late last year, the CSCNS “secured 27 months of funding through [Nova Scotia’s] Department of Labour and Advanced Education’s Sector Council Program.” Funding started on January 1, 2013 and allows the council “to address issues related to human resource management in the sector,” according to the province. The provincial funding is slated to run out in March 2015.

In February the NS department of labour and advanced education announced an initial investment of $450,000 towards the council.


The new organization aims to create a stable, collaborative environment for the province’s nearly 6,000 nonprofits and their roughly 24,000 employees with a specific mandate to become “an independent nonprofit entity be created as per the Societies Act to take leadership on bringing together sector organizations, with a particular focus on collectively and collaboratively addressing the identified labour force and human resource challenges,” according to Toupin’s submission to the province.

CSCNS’ short-term priority goals are four-fold: Human resources planning, nonprofit labour force attraction and retention, training in the sector and nonprofit sector development. This is in conjunction with results the province would like to see in the initial year of the council’s operation, in an attempt to gain economic efficiencies in the sector.

But for it to work, the council is going to need to reach out to its sector colleagues and go on an information campaign. As Toupin noted in her proposal to the government:

“It will be critical for this new organization to reach out to as many organizations as possible, recognizing that nonprofits, especially the small ones, are generally so concentrated on their day-to-day work that they may not be aware of the council nor see the benefits of accessing its materials and tools, enhancing their competencies in HR management or answering surveys and questionnaires that would provide much needed data. The Council, in return, will have to quickly establish itself as an organization that adds real value to their work, is focused on achieving concrete outcomes, and engages all who are willing to contribute to the organization’s success.”

To that end, enter Kathleen Flanagan, the newly appointed, inaugural executive director of the CSCNS.

Hired earlier this month by the board, Flanagan has her work cut out for her but is eager to get the ball rolling. In a statement, Arlene MacDonald, chair of the CSCNS, said her organization was thrilled with the choice for executive director. She was selected from out of 32 applicants from across the country who vied for the job.

“She has a unique ability to engage with people and she brings years of experience in the nonprofit, private and public sectors. She has worked on innovative initiatives in a wide range of fields, including literacy, workplace learning, arts and culture, leadership, and skills assessment, with the goal of developing the capacities of communities in both urban and rural settings,” MacDonald said. “Kathleen’s knowledge and experience will be extremely valuable as she travels around the province talking with people and organizations about how we can work together to build a strong and sustainable network of community organizations.”

Straight from the ED’s mouth

Speaking to CharityVillage last week from Nova Scotia, Flanagan said she was excited to start in her new role and that her first priority was to build up the council’s network across the region.

“Over the next two years we want to build the network in the province and make the council a stronger presence,” she said. “Because we’re brand new, we’re looking for ways to make the council more visible elevate the profile of nonprofits as key players in the economy.”

To that point, Flanagan noted that the province was experiencing challenges with out-migration of young workers and an aging population. She said the province’s roughly 6,000 nonprofits, and their 24,000 paid employees represent five percent of Nova Scotia’s overall workforce.

As such, it’s important that the CSCNS establish itself as a credible “well-connected [entity] that is able to offer something tangible” to the sector. That’s the long-term goal, she said.

What makes the sector in Nova Scotia unique, she said, is that nonprofits are “truly embedded in virtually every community” due to the changing nature of the economy and the help Nova Scotians are seeking in these times.

Though it’s early days for the council and its emerging role as the province’s first nonprofit sector umbrella organization, Flanagan noted that early feedback from sector colleagues has proven positive.

“Nova Scotia nonprofits are really excited by this and see it as an opportunity to share with each other through a formal structure,” she said.

For now, the council is in the midst of getting its website and brand together – Flanagan said she hoped the council website would be launched by the end of March – and is also looking to find a nonprofit with which it can share physical office space to “establish our location.”

An RFP on that subject was one of the first actions she took last week. At time of writing, there was no news of replies from nonprofits to the council’s request.

Still, the work goes on and Flanagan said the CSCNS will also be hiring more staff members to work across the province in six “regional hubs” which will be located in different locations at “pre-existing nonprofits”. The idea is to bring the council’s presence to the disparate parts of the province to extend its reach as quickly as possible.

“We’ll work with [our] host nonprofits to develop the network and serve as conduits between the council and other diverse [nonprofit] networks in each region,” Flanagan said.

East meet West

The CSCNS will also be benchmarking with similar networks, councils and sector umbrella bodies throughout the nation. “Many of them are a few steps ahead of us and we can learn a lot from them,” Flanagan said.

With luck and hard work, it’s hoped the council will eventually become both influential and financially viable beyond the funding of the province and that it will assume its place among the other Canadian sector umbrella organizations.

What do you think? How important is the emergence of the CSCNS in the Maritime province? Will it make a difference?


Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is president of WordLaunch professional writing services in Toronto. He can be reached at

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