Earned Income

Earned Income Report

The Earned Income-Generating Activities Among Canadian Charities report is Imagine Canada’s first report focused on earned income based on a summary of findings from our Sector Monitor program. 

The desire for earned income data stems from Imagine Canada’s National Engagement Strategy and subsequent discussions around solidifying the funding base for the sector, one of which is about creating a supportive environment for earned income activities. Understanding today’s role, challenges and opportunities of earned income in the charitable sector sets the foundation for what sector leaders should be thinking about going forward. 

A key achievement of the report is that it highlights how important earned income already is for the charitable sector. The sector has long been aware of this importance, but this report adds quantifiable data as a foundation. It also adds valuable detail regarding what types of charities are most involved in earned income generation and how they use the revenues they generate. 

Important takeaways from this report:

  1. Some charities have been engaging in earned income generation for a very long time and they generate impressively large percentages of their total revenues from it.
  2. Charity leaders are almost uniformly optimistic about the future potential of earned income.
  3. Although they are optimistic about the future potential, they are also conservative – predicting quite small increases in the role of earned income, on average – and those who have been involved in earned income for the longest and generate the most revenue from it are the most conservative in their predictions.

Earned Income Framework

The Earned Income Framework is a companion document to the Earned Income Report. Imagine Canada believes that the conversation about earned income needs to be made more accessible for the vast majority of charity and nonprofit leaders and that we need to be thinking of earned income and its related concepts and components in a much more integrated way. The Earned Income Framework responds to both of these needs by outlining our approach to earned income activities.

For the charitable and nonprofit sector to build on the assets that it has already developed in pursuing earned income activities, Imagine Canada suggests four fundamental pillars are considered when undertaking any new earned income initiative. These pillars are:

  1. Financial Capital
  2. Human Capital
  3. Market Demand
  4. Regulatory Environment

The Framework also discusses four key considerations that are related to earned income activity. These include: mission drift, risk assessment, change management, and impact measurement. Organizations will need to carefully think through each of these issues as they engage in earned income activities either for the first time or more extensively.

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