Preparing for an Advocacy Meeting
By Dan Brunette
Truth be told—with the notable exception that policy statements usually trump financial indicators—there is little difference between preparing for a meeting with an elected official and preparing for a meeting with a major gift prospect. In both cases, a successful meeting requires focus, appropriate subject-matter knowledge and good background information. That said, we are fortunate that expertise in prospect research is not needed to build advocacy briefing notes. There are existing, accessible resources available for your use.
I will not use up a lot of virtual ink describing the myriad of sources available to you, but I would be remiss not to mention that there are always detailed biographies of elected personnel on official websites, and that many high-level statistics are available through Statistics Canada, AFP (see Attachments section) and sector collaborators such as Imagine Canada, the Ontario Nonprofit Network, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.
When preparing for a meeting with elected or appointed officials at any level, knowing granular details about the number of charities in a given constituency adds great value, and this is one piece of information that may seem very difficult to source. Please rest assured that for this purpose, you can utilize the CRA Charity listing and Charitydata.ca websites. They both pull on information garnered from T3010s, the mandatory Registered Charity Information Return.
A few things to keep in mind when searching for the number of charities in a given constituency area:
- New charities are always being set up or closed so the numbers fluctuate regularly.
- Using only 'City' as a search criterion may omit charities who filled out their T3010 form with a pre-amalgamation name, rather than the current nomenclature. The easiest way to avoid this is using the Province/Territory/Outside of Canada field and then download the results and sort by postal code.
- Using the Province/Territory/Outside of Canada may omit charities who are active in a region but are not officially based there. For example, there are 134 registered charities based in the Yukon and at least 16 others with ``Yukon`` in their name—e.g., the Canmore, Alberta-based Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Foundation; and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of British Columbia and Yukon, operating out of Vancouver, B.C. The easiest way to capture many of these outliers is to also search by using the 'name' field for keyword searches.
One should also remember that in addition to the roughly 86,000 registered charities in Canada, thousands of entities can also issue charitable tax receipts. They are known collectively as other qualified donees. This, for example, includes 75 municipalities, as well as both the Abegweit & Lennox Island First Nations on Prince Edward Island. There are other categories as well, such as Registered Canadian Athletic Amateur Association, which includes Quidditch Canada (Muggle)!
In conclusion, there are many trusted online resources for AFP members who require quick and reliably-sourced sector information. As a side note, it is worthwhile to take the time to pull up the T3010s of your own organization. What you will see is what is publicly accessible to everyone, and it is sometimes surprising!
Daniel Brunette is currently serving as chair of the Government Relations Committee for the Association of Fundraising Professionals in Canada and works as the director, development and donor services for the Ottawa Community Foundation.