Monthly Archives: March 2020

ISTR Conference Postponed: Rescheduled for 2021

RESCHEDULED DATES: 12 – 15 JULY  2021  

It is with deep regret that we inform you of the postponement of the 14th biennial International Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR).  Due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, we believe the responsible decision is to postpone the Montreal conference this year.  We are pleased that we have been able to reschedule for July 12-15, 2021 in Montreal. All papers, panels, posters, roundtables that have been accepted to ISTR 2020 will be automatically accepted to ISTR 2021.

While a virtual conference during the originally scheduled dates would be an alternative, ISTR’s small staff means that our infrastructure — both technological and logistical — cannot accommodate it in the given time frame.  We will begin to work on a plan to bring some panels and workshops to our members virtually.  Postponement of the conference does not preclude scholarly conversation via other means.  Please allow us some time to explore various options and share information about how to do this in the coming weeks.  This includes students accepted to the PhD Seminar, who will receive a separate communication about their participation. 

We are most grateful for the hard work of our Academic Committee, Montreal Host Committee, and PhD Seminar Co-Chairs.  We want to acknowledge their efforts over the past months to organize an excellent conference. 

As you may be aware, postponing the conference has serious financial implications for the Society.  ISTR counts on its membership dues to support the ongoing operations and initiatives of the association.  As mentioned above, we will be working hard to adapt and provide meaningful opportunities for member engagement this year. If you are not already a member, we hope you will join.  If your membership has expired, we encourage you to renew by visiting www.istr.org/membership

We are offering 3 options for your 2020 Conference registration fees:

1. Refund the full conference registration

2. Apply the registration funds to the 2021 Conference

3. Donate the registration fee to the Society 

Please click HERE for: refund, apply to 2021, or donate

We would like to thank each of you for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this historic public health crisis.  We appreciate the notes of support and encouragement we have received to date.  We always like hearing from you and appreciate any additional thoughts or ideas you would like to share. 

On behalf of the officers and members of the board, we hope that you and yours remain safe and healthy in this trying time.

With deep appreciation,

Ruth Phillips
ISTR President

On behalf of ISTR Executive Committee, Conference Committees and Staff

ISTR 2020 – Early Registration Deadline Extended, ISTR 2020 Remains Scheduled

The health and safety of our members is our foremost priority.  Given the general concern about traveling due to the spread of Covid-19, ISTR is extending the early registration deadline to Monday, April 27, 2020.

The ISTR International Conference and ISTR PhD Seminar remains scheduled for July 2020.  Extending the author registration deadline will offer participants more time to consider their plans to travel to Montreal.

The Montreal Tourisme Office is keeping us informed about developments locally and we are monitoring other public health website.  Montreal is currently a low-risk destination for community spread of Covid-19.

If you decide not to attend we will refund your conference registration in full.  Due to the extraordinary circumstances, we will not charge the usual administrative fee on refunds.

We will keep monitoring the global situation and will provide updates.

We look forward to seeing you in Montreal. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Margery Daniels, at mdaniels@istr.org.

Please stay in touch!

With best regards,

Ruth Phillips
ISTR President

Informed citizens, capable young leaders, and a stronger non-profit sector: three challenges for Canadian foundations in 2020

Canadian organized philanthropy is significant in Canadian civil society. Among approximately 86,000 registered charities, we count over 10,000 registered public and private (primarily family) foundations, a proportion of all registered charities not dissimilar to that of foundations in the United States.  According to the most recent data available (from 2017) these foundations gave a total of $ 6.7 Billion to other Canadian charities.

But the raw data says very little about the quality and impact of this philanthropy.  Information remains patchy and anecdotal.  Efforts are being made to amplify the research on the impact of organized philanthropy but as yet there are few university-based clusters of researchers in Canada.  The Masters Program in Philanthropy and NonProfit Leadership at Carleton University has a node of researchers producing public material on philanthropic impact. And Philab Network at the University of Quebec at Montreal has been active for the past three years in publishing material on the impact of foundations. However, the academic literature remains surprisingly limited.

The literature may not make them visible, but we have a lively community of Canadian foundations and they are addressing some important issues for our society:

  • Transitioning communities in the face of climate change
  • Identifying sustainable growth strategies and policies
  • Reconciling with the legacy of colonialism and the challenges faced by Indigenous communities
  • Developing innovative approaches to the challenges of integrating young people into employment in a mature society shifting to a digital economy with new skills needs

Many of their stories are being told through Philanthropy In Action, on the site of by Philanthropy in ActionPhilanthropic Foundations Canada, the philanthropy support organization for many public and private philanthropies. Here, we see evidence that Canadian funders are convenors, catalysts, policy developers and space holders, not simply grantmakers.

Earlier this year, I suggested that Canadian foundations consider three more specific challenges in 2020: media and democracy, non-profit leadership, and non-profit sector capacity.

1. What role can philanthropy play in promoting a more informed democracy?

Back in 2013, US-based observers suggested that “if a requirement of democracy is that all citizens have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard, then we must find ways to help that happen. A longstanding argument on the role of civil society is that it should do two related but somewhat opposite things: 1) serve as a means for bringing forward new ideas that with the support of the majority are put forward into government, and 2) serve as a place to support the ideas and interests of multiple minorities. Philanthropic organizations thus serve as a pipeline into democratic engagement, and as an incubator and home for ideas and communities that are still emerging or may not have found awareness or favor with the voting majority.”

Canadian foundations are working on media and democracy already. The Atkinson Foundation has supported  the Public Policy Forum’s “Shattered Mirror” investigation into the long-term implications of shifts in digital technology, news and politics. Digital news platforms are upending media business models. How to regulate and manage these new digital media platforms in ways that support informed citizens and better policy?  The McConnell and Rossy Foundations are supporting a digital democracy project at McGill’s Max Bell School of Public Policy.  Might we see more of this being done in Canada in 2020?

2.  The second challenge is building non-profit leadership.

How can Canadian philanthropy support the development of leaders from the millennial generation of people in their 30s today? The first millennials will be turning 40 in 2021. Are they ready to take on leadership positions in the Canadian non-profit sector?  This generation of leaders will be the one to confront head on the impact of huge and complex challenges such as climate change.  And this generation is also more focused on equity, inclusion and different ways of working. What do they need to build their skills?

skills acquisition

Some foundations are paying close attention to helping youth prepare for the workplace.  RBC Future Launch and PwC Canada Young People Project are providing philanthropic support to mentoring, coaching, skills acquisition and work experience opportunities for young people.  The Counselling Foundation of Canada provides extensive support to youth planning their careers and developing their skills. What about developing non-profit leaders themselves in mid-career?  The Rozsa Foundation through its Arts Leadership Programs provides targeted assistance to leaders at all stages of their careers in arts organizations.  No reason why this approach could not be considered for other parts of the non-profit sector. And a small philanthropic investment such as this has very long-lasting impact.

3. The third challenge is building non-profit sector infrastructure.  

Elsewhere, I have argued for foundation support for intermediary organizations that provide collective action on rules and standards, gather intelligence, mobilize knowledge, and advocate with policy-makers. Relatively few private foundations in Canada have chosen to do this as a primary goal.  The Muttart Foundation and the Lawson Foundation are examples of philanthropy that recognizes the value of strengthening the philanthropic and charitable sectors.   Other foundations work to support infrastructure within their areas of interest. But there is still a major gap. These organizations and platforms are fragile. Small investments bring big dividends, especially if the investment is in capable leadership.

Viewing philanthropic strategies through these three lenses faces us with an important question for future research: How are foundations contributing to the development of informed citizens, capable young leaders, or a stronger non-profit sector in Canada overall?  Perhaps the discussions at ISTR in Montreal in 2020 will provide us with some answers.

Hilary Pearson

Guest post by Hilary Pearson, Canadian expert on foundation philanthropy in Canada. She was the founding President of Philanthropic Foundations Canada, advises the federal government on policy and regulatory issues, has been a director on several major non-profit boards, and has worked with many of the largest private charitable foundations in the country.  Ms. Pearson serves on the Advisory Committee to the Masters in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program at Carleton University.