Sector 360° Survey 2019

Taking the Pulse

heder for sector 360 2019 survey

This survey was open to nonprofits, charities, and nonprofit co-operatives with a mission to serve a public benefit, aimed specifically at executive directors and senior leaders. The survey was administered using an online platform for one month. A total of 447 people responded; however, not all respondents replied to all the questions.

Responses show that across subsectors, organizations aren’t just worried about having their funding streams cut, but also the speed and uncertainty of the decision-making process, as well as the lack of information, details, and engagement with the sector by the provincial government. The responses from nonprofits underscore the challenges they face and the concern they have for the communities they serve.

One key finding is that nonprofits are now operating in a climate of growing uncertainty and volatility as a result of massive systems transformations confronting the nonprofit sector in Ontario. While budget cuts are deep, it’s the transformations and populations affected that concern nonprofits the most, including refugees, newcomers, children in after-school programs, individuals living on low incomes, and more.

Key highlights from the survey:

  • 30 per cent of respondents said their budgets have decreased as a result of the provincial budget and policy changes
  • 50 per cent of organizations do not have the bare minimum of three months reserve funds
  • 23 per cent of organizations anticipate having to pay costs out of pocket as a result of the 2019 budget and related policy decisions
  • 28 per cent of organizations indicated that their sector is subject to a restructuring exercise, including health, child care, employment and training, community housing and arts.

However, amid anxiety and uncertainty, nonprofits remain optimistic and are making the most of opportunities.

They are also creating strong advocacy partnerships. Eighty per cent of respondents reported that they had communicated with other organizations and community members to tackle the challenges presented by the 2019 provincial budget and related legislative changes.

The themes that emerged from the survey reflect and highlight the need for the Ontario government to actively engage and consult with the sector in advance of making policy changes no matter the circumstances, to better identify potential problems and unanticipated consequences.

Want to know more? Download the complete survey report or explore key findings outlined below:

Report highlights

Financial and structural pressures

We found that nearly a third (30 per cent) of respondents indicated their budgets decreased as a result of the provincial budget and policy changes. And even as late as July 2019 (three or four months into the fiscal year), another 11 per cent of nonprofit organizations did not know whether they would be affected, because of a lack of information available to them to make this assessment.

Fluctuating budgets limit the ability of nonprofits to plan for and deliver consistent services to communities. Uncertainty increases when changes happen in-year and after an organization’s board of directors has already approved the yearly budget.

A volatile operating environment

Nonprofits are facing longer-term challenges as a result of ripple effects. For instance, ONN’s survey found that almost 50 per cent of nonprofit organizations did not have the bare minimum of three months’ reserve funds – a necessity in a climate where funding can be volatile and government payments often arrive late even when agreements are signed.

This suggests that it could be challenging for nonprofits to sustain themselves during a period of intensive change stemming from the provincial budget. Even with reserves available, organizations face difficult decisions about how they invest their resources.

Staying on target in turbulent times

Despite uncertainty, nonprofits remain hopeful about achieving their missions.
We asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed that their organizations were growing and whether they are optimistic about making continued progress toward achieving their mission. More than half (51 per cent) agreed that they are confident about making progress towards their missions, while a third (29 per cent) are feeling overwhelmed by recent provincial policy changes.


Looking across the province, we also mapped the impact of budget changes geographically. Twenty-six per cent of respondents in the City of Toronto indicated that they experienced budget cuts, while a third of organizations outside of Toronto (32 per cent) reported that their budgets fell. The data revealed that the impact extends to nonprofits across the province.

This has implications for rural communities which have access to fewer funding resources, and therefore cuts to their budget or cuts to intermediaries like OTF can have more serious and unintended consequences. The reality is no matter where organizations are located, they are feeling the impact of the budget.

Based on survey responses, it would appear that the following subsections are most affected by funding and program changes:

  • Arts, culture, and tourism (including museums, galleries, theatres, community arts)
  • Social services (including child care, family services, services for the elderly
  • Education and research (including employment and training programs)

Read the Sector 360° Survey 2019 report

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