Starting a nonprofit in Ontario: First steps

I consider myself something of a rarity (novelty?) in the School of Business at St. Lawrence College in that my motivation has always been more geared towards marketing in the nonprofit and public sectors vs. the private sector. This is largely due to my personal politics, but I have also come to believe that the nonprofit sector desperately needs an influx of marketing expertise and support, and I want to do my part to help fill the gaps – especially for my local community.

There are so many organizations in Kingston, ON that are working hard to serve the people of this community, but we are at risk of losing those services if we don’t help them to strategically plan for their activities, growth, and survival. The lack of expertise is largely due to funding constraints and small budgets for nonprofits, which means that career opportunities are minimal. Many nonprofits are staffed and managed by volunteers – as much by necessity as by design – and the skill sets of those volunteers (no matter how willing) does not often include strategic planning and marketing communications on a professional level.

Thankfully, there are some resources out there for organizations if you know where to look. More than that, I believe that marketing resources for nonprofits are increasingly available online due to the need mentioned above – fueled by increased access via digital and social media. These supports can range from basic videos like the one below, to web hubs for the sector.

I was recently approached by a community activist from Napanee who wanted to start a nonprofit that provided free bicycles to those in need in her region, and she really had no idea how and where to start. During our consultation, it was obvious that she is clearly an intelligent and hard-working volunteer with leadership abilities. She simply needs a helping hand from someone with experience, and some tools to help her navigate the process.

Even as someone with 8 years with Kingston nonprofits, it took a bit of thoughtful searching to figure out the most A/necessary B/practical and C/accessible resources to help her start the process. In the end, I gave her the following four links:

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Sector Source connects charities and nonprofits with resources that help develop organizations and support the work you do for your communities.

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Charity Village communicates employment opportunities and resources for the Canadian nonprofit and charity sector.

Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) – News, policy and resources for the nonprofit sector in Ontario

Ontario’s Not-for-profit Act – The legislative framework for nonprofits in the province of Ontario

This is just a starting point for a new organization, and I recognize that the information on these sites is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the tools and resources needed by nonprofit volunteers, boards, and community leaders. I would love to hear from other marketers and those with nonprofit experience if you have better examples or other easily available resources. Please feel free to contact me through the comments, or through any of the connections in the sidebar navigation.



Canada Post: The Marketing Communications Gap

 After a week’s hiatus, Stepping Stones is back for a fifth installment on our Canada Post research project. This should be the second-last post focusing specifically on the project before I move on to other community/public issues, but I will do my best to finish strong on a topic that affects all Canadians.

Tonight I am releasing a link to our research survey through This survey has now been completed 212 times, surpassing our goal of 200 responses, but a hard and fast rule of research is that your accuracy increases with a greater number and variety of participants. With that in mind, I would urge you to complete the survey if you can and please share through social media or other platforms.

Additionally, I will use this blog’s Canada Post Research category to share the personal interview that we created for the purpose of research triangulation – which is a fancy way of saying that it is the third source of research data. You can look for a link to a PDF version around 10:00 PM eastern tonight.

This is a short 8-question open-ended questionnaire that is designed to give more depth to our research because it allows for more thoughtful answers. If any of you would like to fill out the questionnaire for submission to our research, you can send a copy to

Those are all of the updates fit to print, but I should say a few words about the topic of Canada Post and Marketing, since that is the assigned topic for this week. If you have read our research proposal you will see that one of our assumed problems with Canada Post is a lack of communication with the public regarding the services that are currently offered. At first glance, this assumption has been supported by public opinion, but I look forward to sharing the results.

To be honest, it is not a great stretch to say that Marketing Communications has been a problem for the corporation. Canada Post has a website that I have shared many times, but is anyone aware of anything beyond a handful of news articles over the past two years that spoke about efforts to modernize Canada Post or promote the services that are offered? This kind of marketing promotion would be standard practice for a private corporation and it has to have had an impact on the use of services.

After all, we already know that the federal government is not shy about spending public dollars on advertising when it suits their self-promotional needs, but it would be nice to see them do it for a crown corporation that provides services and economic benefit to all Canadians. As a marketing professional and a public representative, this further influences my opinion that the government has made a concentrated effort to sabotage the success of Canada Post because they clearly know the benefits of a strong marketing communications plan, but have done nothing communicate with their customers.

LCBO - LCBO's 20th annual Ontario wine promotion
The LCBO employs an aggressive marketing promotion strategy

I will leave you with the contrasting strategy of the LCBO, which is a provincial crown corporation that has been very aggressive with its marketing communications and business development. While I have not always agreed with the LCBO’s treatment of its employees, I do appreciate that they are actively striving to be successful because the LCBO’s profits benefit all Ontarians. Why should Canada Post be any different?

Saving Canada Post: A Global Perspective

Deutsche Post DHLIt is 4:30 am on a Friday morning and what else would a marketing student rather be doing but market research? In my case, I have been scouring the interwebs trying to acquire a global perspective on the present and future of Canada Post. As someone who is a staunch supporter of public services and public service jobs, I will admit that my findings are disheartening.

It appears that there has been an ongoing global crisis in public postal services, which leads me to wonder: 1/ Why has there been a lack of public discussion and consultation with Canadians? 2/ As a federal politician, why haven’t I been paying better attention?

Question 1 is obviously directed at our federal Conservative government. However, this government has a very poor track record when it comes to consulting and including Canadians in the decision-making process, so it is a mystery easily solved: They don’t seem to care what Canadians think. 

Question 2 is clearly my attempt to own my negligence on the issue, but Canada Post was not on the radar during the last federal election in 2011. Instead, the public vs. private debate was focused on the future status and independence of the CBC.

I will get my personal opinion out of the way by saying that I believe that running public services (and running them WELL) in the best interests of Canadians is an expression of the government’s will to serve the public. So when a government fails in this mission, it tells me that they are either shirking their responsibilities or they have no vision.

This issue of having a vision for public services is central to the current debate on the future of the U.S. Postal Service, as well as the evolution of European public postal services. In Germany (DHL) and France (La Poste), the rigours of deregulation and privatization have forced them to exercise a new vision and change their models to include global parcel delivery, logistics/supply chain management and expansion in retail sales and delivery.

While I can appreciate the initiative shown in Germany and France, the results have also included the decline of service and the deterioration of working conditions. This should be unacceptable for Canadians and my belief is that this issue SHOULD be an opportunity to improve public services and show that we can find a better way to do things in this country instead simply divesting ourselves of the responsibility.

So let us suppose that our mission as Canadian marketing professionals is to keep Canada Post public, but we still have to modernize the organizational structure and better serve our market. How can we make that happen? The answer comes back to doing proper research and finding out what our market wants and needs. This will be the essential problem that our research project will try to solve. ~~DJB.

*Note: Our SLC School of Business research proposal will be posted here on Tuesday, February 11th.

Is there a future for Canada Post?

Canada Post

Is is not easy being a democratic socialist in an excessively capitalist culture, and it is doubly hard to maintain that identity while deeply embedded in the School of Business at St. Lawrence College. However, I have been heartened by the countless opportunities to apply my course work to my interests in federal politics and community development.

The most recent examples of this phenomenon are the advent of this blog and our most recent assignment in Marketing Research (MARK 19 for my fellow classmates).  I won’t belabor a discussion on the blog, other than to confirm that it owes its existence to the requirements of another course. I will also admit that starting a blog is something that I have been wanting to do for some time, so I am thankful to be given a not-so-gentle push in that direction.

As far as the marketing research project, it can be a challenge to agree on a topic when you are working with a group, but I will admit to being relentless in pushing my teammates towards the topic of Canada Post. What can I say? I am an expressive and passionate person and if my teammates did not have a better suggestion, I knew exactly what kind of research I wanted to do.

The reasons should be obvious: Canada Post has very much been in the news since the announcement on December 11 that the crown corporation would be cutting household delivery services. I have to admit that I am not objective on this topic, because I believe that the cutting of services and jobs is hurtful to the economy and displays a lack of governmental will to be responsible to Canadians. However, I will leave that aspect for another blog entry. The key point I want to make here is that I am not objective on the subject, so I will be counting on my teammates to help keep our research honest and objective.

Just the same, this will not be a political research project. We will be looking at Canada Post as a business as far as its past and future profitability. When any business – even a crown corporation – struggles, it is the purview of marketing analysts to try to either A/ Find out ‘Why?’, or B/ Hypothesize a direction for the company that will increase revenues and strengthen the brand.

The real marketing research will start after the submission of our proposals next Friday and I will be sure to post the final copy of our proposal here at Stepping Stones. In the meantime, I will leave you with some further reading on the topic, including an opinion article from the Queen’s Journal, and a CBC piece that lays out much of the history and facts regarding Canada Post.