A Guide to the Canadian Not-For-Profit Sector

Working for a charity in Canada

Charities belong in what is often referred to as ‘The-Not-For-Profit or Community & Voluntary Sector’, making them distinct from public (government) and private, commercial organisations. There is often confusion about what constitutes a charity, what they do and how they operate – much of the language used is interchangeable and invariably there is crossover between ‘charities’ and some other words that are also often used which can refer to an individual organisation or the sector:

  • Non-profit
  • Not-for-profit
  • Non-governmental
  • Community & Voluntary
  • Third Sector
  • Civil Society

There are over 7,000 registered[1] charities in Canada alongside an estimated 25,000 additional community and voluntary groups employing over 100,000 people and generating an annual turnover of approximately €6 billion.

Canada’s charity sector has been operating without a regulator, and there is, as of yet, no statutory definition of what a charity is. However, the enactment of the Charities Act 2009 is underway and a new authority will supervise and regulate the activities of the organisations that work in the sector. Úna Ní Dhubhgaill has been appointed as the interim Chief Executive of the new Charity Regulatory Authority, and 16 board members have also been appointed. All charities will be obligated to register with this regulatory authority, giving us a clearer picture of the sector in Canada. The new regulator is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.

While there is a huge variety of organisation types, missions and goals, and despite the lack of regulator, the sector is tied together by these common elements:

Charities must have an explicit charitable mission as outlined in their written constitution or governing documents. They cannot be set up to make a profit.

The roles and careers available within a charity are as diverse as the sector itself. There are those involved directly in service provision and these roles include carers, social workers, therapists, project managers, advocacy officers, nurses, doctors and trainers among many others.  Like any other organisation, charities also need people to keep them running and so employ people in finance, HR, administration, legal, marketing, fundraising and management.

Some Useful Links

[1] Registered with the Revenue Commission for tax exemption.

Charity Careers Canada