• Tina Crouse

THE IMPACT LEAK – When the Triumvirate Tilts

- What impacts the good we do?

The nonprofit sector represented by three hot-air balloons

Photo by Aaron Burden via UnSplash

Canada’s nonprofit sector is a triumvirate def: a group, party, or association of three leaders, though the three are notionally equal, this is rarely the case in reality (Wikipedia). Many people think of the nonprofit sector consisting only of charities but who has influence, who determines trends, who determines what projects, populations or innovations come into being or remain in play? You may want to describe the shape of the sector as an Equilateral Triangle but the interaction between funders: government and foundations, and those seeking funding is more like Isosceles (two sides have the same length). Without funding, there is no nonprofit sector.

The nonprofit sector represented by isosceles and equilateral triangles

Now imagine the Isosceles triangle swaying a bit. Which way does it move? What happens to the other sides? What is the cost of all that swaying? COST?!? Why would we even be thinking of costs? Because in Newton's Third Law of Motion "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” You can bet that movement from funders equals movement from charities. So much so, that in the past, we called it “Flocking” - charities swooping and chasing the dollars, just to stay in the air.

As funders, government and foundations need charities to offer services. They are the ones mandated to do so but they are not service providers. So when they wish to see good done for society, they fund nonprofits to do it. And so the interchange exists and the energy gets dispersed but not always in equal measures and not always with clarity. And herein lies the crux, when this movement occurs, leaks emerge like costs for things like failed proposals, and this is experienced by all sides. The triangle tilts and who knows how long before it loses its shape?

The reason to think of the nonprofit sector as a triumvirate is to understand the interchange between the groups, the ‘sides’ because they all seek to help each other. When government moves, foundations may follow or vice versa and then funding flows to the nonprofits who also have moved. Nonprofits sometimes forget that in the ‘dash to do’, they feel alone in the sector but there is no triangle without all sides: otherwise, it is just 3 points and that does not describe Canada’s nonprofit sector.

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Written By Tina Crouse

Tina Crouse is the CEO of ANSWER.it, a tech4good social enterprise on a mission to strengthen the nonprofit sector. Tina's career has spanned more than 2 decades in the charitable sector with a specialty in grant development.  She has created a number of ‘firsts’ in Canada and has worked at 3 tech companies, heading up 2 social enterprises.

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