September 15th, 2011
|Posted by: * PACT Editor|
Should Community Outreach Programs Receive Government Funding?
More than a million Canadian children, one in nine, live in households below the poverty line according to a 2008 report; many more are otherwise disadvantaged because of issues in their communities or their homes. There are a number of community outreach organizations specializing in helping disadvantaged children - Big Brothers & Sisters of Canada, Doorsteps Neighbourhood Service in Toronto, to name two - that make significant improvements in individual lives and communities as a whole. Yet these types of organizations must dedicate a significant portion of their resources to fundraising.
Some government funding is available: Big Brothers & Sisters, for example, receives $200,000 in government grants annually toward it’s roughly $5 million operating budget. According to the organization’s 2010 Annual Report, however, it spends more than that amount in yearly fundraising efforts. Would these types of establishments be better able to focus on their mission of helping children and communities if they spent less effort on fundraising - and is it the government’s responsibility to shore up that funding? Some say yes, and for reasons more pragmatic than you might think.
The effects of positive intervention on disadvantaged children are both real and significant. Kids involved with Big Brothers & Sisters graduate from high school at a rate 20% higher than the national average, and many who were involved in dangerous and criminal behaviour before being matched with a mentor are able to break out of the cycle. Doorsteps Neighbourhood Services works to help get people back to work (improving the economy) and promoting healthy lifestyles (affecting health care costs). By reducing criminality and helping citizens raise themselves up from poverty, these groups have an enormous impact on society as a whole, and can potentially reduce the need for government grants elsewhere.
On the other hand, there is obviously only a limited amount of government funding to go around, and countless groups seeking assistance. Federal, provincial, and municipal levels of government must spread resources across a wide swath of interested parties in order to satisfy the needs of their constituents. Tough decisions have to be made; one group’s increased funding means another’s decrease.
It’s cliche for a reason: children are our future. The better society of tomorrow is dependent on the opportunities for success afforded to those growing up today. So perhaps these types of organizations, focusing on the most vulnerable youth in our communities, should have a priority on government funding rather than rely on charities like the United Way to keep their doors open.
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