Changes to Society Act to Affect all BC Non-profits

A recent email from Enterprising Non-Profits brought a very important issue for BC non-profits to my attention.

In December 2009, the BC Provincial Government issued a request for consultation on possible changes to the BC Society Act. Since then, a group of local organizations have been working together on developing a collaborative submission to help represent the interests of the not-for-profit sector in BC.

A copy of this submission, initially endorsed by 28 leading organizations from BC, is available here.  The submission does a good job of describing some issues with the current Society Act (such as inflexibility in governance structures) and some things that are not required by changes to the act (such as mandatory audits at the cost of non-profits).  What I find most interesting is the section on what is needed. Simplicity of incorporation is key but also support for social enterprise organizations.

Many organizations have been exploring the use of social enterprises to drive revenue and to achieve a public good at the same time. Such organizations and their objectives do not fit easily into the Society Act, the Business Corporations Act or the Cooperative Association Act.

The problem is that social enterprises are a hybrid type of organization and the tax treatment and investment rules are not very clear. This results in confusion on the ground and sometimes lack of investment until rules are clarified.

There has also been a sector based website established to build momentum and encourage more dialogue and education about the importance of this legislation  www.yourtake.ca . The website is supported byVancity Credit Union, Vancity Community Foundation, the Vancouver Foundation and the United Community Services Co-op

In the words of Derek Gent, Executive Director of the Vancity Community Foundation,

We believe that a strong voice is necessary at this time, showing some solidarity and confirming that an overly restrictive regulatory framework is not in the public interest. Accountability is certainly important, but there is a significant risk that changes to the Act (which applies to the vast majority of not-for-profit organizations here) could result in new onerous requirements for compliance and undue limitations on activities or governance as we have seen in other jurisdictions. Given the very broad diversity of organizations in our sector here in BC and the already strained capacity, we encourage you to voice your opinions directly to the government through their consultation process http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/society_act_review.htm , and/or to show support for this collaborative response.

The deadline for submissions through the formal consultation is April 1, 2010, so even just a quick e-mail to fcsp@gov.bc.ca confirming your opinions about the prospect of increased regulation in the not-for-profit sector would be useful.

For those interested in adding support to the collaborative group, the team will work to compile lists of supporters for the collaborative response at vcf@vancity.com or on the website at where the submission is posted

Please take the time to read the submission and add your voice at www.yourtake.ca/sign-on-to-joint-submission/

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