In 2017, Toronto became the first city in Canada to adopt a ‘whole-of-government’ policy framework to guide how it works with not-for-profits. The For Public Benefit Framework includes principles, commitments and concrete actions to promote a more strategic and consistent City/Sector relationship.

The work of the community-based not-for-profit sector is integral to the work of the City of Toronto.

The City relies on the not-for-profit sector to deliver hundreds of community services to residents, including but not limited to social housing, children’s services, employment services and arts and cultural programming. The City also looks to the not-for-profit sector to identify and respond to emerging community issues and to help ensure that local voices are heard by decision-makers. In these diverse ways, Toronto’s not-for-profit sector has a profound positive impact on our communities and on safeguarding our democracy. Given the significance of Toronto’s not-for-profit sector, and the value and complexity of our City/sector relationships, it makes sense to develop a clear set of principles and commitments for working together to create a vibrant and inclusive Toronto.

The City interacts with community-based not-for-profit organizations in six ways

1. Investing in Service

The City invests in not-for-profits to deliver a wide range of community services like childcare, shelter services and employment services.

2. Co-Designing Programs & Policies

The City regularly collaborates and consults with not-for-profits to design new policies and programs, like the Toronto Seniors Strategy

3. Engaging Communities

The City often depends on not-for-profit organizations to promote community vitality and help residents participate in civic life.

4. Building Capacity

The City funds and subsidizes not-for-profits to work in communities by providing grants, tax subsidies, fee waivers, affordable space and other supports.

5. Regulatory Oversight

The City is the provincially designated service system management for some not-for-profit services, like children’s services and housing.

6. Indirect Benefits

The City also relies on, but does not fund, not-for-profits to provide diverse services and programs that contribute to community well-being.

An Important Financial Relationship

The City of Toronto annually invests over $1 Billion in the not-for-profit sector, in the form of grants and purchase of service agreements and subsidies such as below-market rent, fee waivers and tax deductions. The City’s largest financial investment in the not-for-profit sector is for shelter/hostel services, social housing and related services ($489 Million in 2016). Another major investment area is children’s services ($207 Million in 2016). The City’s transactions with not-for-profits have been increasing significantly because of the City’s new service management responsibilities for child and family programs and the ongoing growth of licensed childcare. Most of these programs are delivered by community-based not-for-profits.

Surveys and income tax data suggest that Toronto’s core community-based not-for-profit sector:

  • Contributes at least $14 billion in annual revenue, which is double the reported impact of Toronto’s tourism industries and represents over 8% of Toronto’s GDP
  • Leverages 1.7 million volunteer hours
  • Employs over 105,000 full-time workers
  • Includes 14,000 organizations
  • Relies on local government investments for only 7% of total revenue and attracts 93% of revenue from other sources
  • Provides job opportunities for vulnerable individuals entering the workforce, through social enterprises and other workforce initiatives to reduce poverty and promote economic inclusion
  • Creates more than 100,000 part-time jobs

Toronto’s community-based not-for-profit organizations can play an important role in facilitating effective communication and relationships between City government and community members, and can amplify the voices, perspectives, experiences, and recommendations of residents who are underrepresented in civic engagement and decision-making processes.  The City has made a formal commitment to invest in and leverage the engagement capacities of the not-for-profit sector so that community involvement in strategic City issues is more inclusive. City Divisions work with community-based organizations that:

  • Sustain meaningful relationships with their community.
  • Employ and are led by people who reflect the community being served.
  • Recognize the strengths and assets of their community.
  • Work collaboratively with other local networks, groups and projects.
  • Adopt organizational policies that promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Adapt their consultation methods to match the needs and interests of their community.
  • Deliver an impartial consultation process that reflects the perspectives of community members.
  • Provide employment and leadership opportunities to residents with lived experience.