MFNPO: The Voice of the Sector

People who don’t work or volunteer in our sector are often amazed to hear the numbers. Even people who DOwork or volunteer in the sector are often taken aback. There are roughly 8,000 non-profit organizations in Manitoba collectively employing about 100,000 people. It’s a significant proportion of the province’s workforce.

“As a sector council for Manitoba’s non-profits, our key objectives are to strengthen the sector, ensure its long-term effectiveness, and enhance how it is perceived by government, other sectors, and the population at large,” says Sandra Oakley, Co-Chair of the Manitoba Federation of Non-Profit Organizations (MFNPO). “We aim to be the sector’s voice.”

MFNPO’s roots go back to 1998 when current MFNPO Co-Chair Martin Itzkow initiated a process to enhance the visibility of the non-profit sector in Manitoba. This led to the launch in 2000 of the Manitoba Voluntary Sector Initiative (MVSI). Under the MVSI, Itzkow was the founding director of the Secretariat on Voluntary Sector Sustainability. In 2004, the sector came to be represented by a new body called the Voluntary and Nonprofit Sector Organization of Manitoba, which became MFNPO in 2009 when it was declared a sector council through a government Order in Council.

Today, MFNPO focuses its efforts on a few key areas.

“One of the most important functions we perform is labour market research,” says Oakley. “The provincial government has turned to us over the years for labour market information. No other body in Manitoba has the data or insight that MFNPO has.”

Oakley notes that one of the key benefits of gathering, assessing, and reporting data is that the effort can move the sector toward greater standardization and consistency.

“As we learn more about the sector and how people are employed within it, we can promote and see movement toward standardization of job titles, job descriptions, pay ranges, credentials, etc.,” says Oakley. “This is important so people can plan for and make lateral and upward moves in the sector. We want to create the conditions for talented and passionate people to have meaningful, long-term careers in the sector.”

Another important function of MFNPO is to provide reasonably priced and practical human resources training for people working the sector.

“We know that it is luxurious for most small and medium-sized non-profits to have a human resources leader on staff, and yet it is a critical function,” says Oakley. “Typically, HR issues are handled by the executive director off the edge of the desk. Our programs help executive directors and other leaders manage HR as effectively as possible.”

The demand for this work is evident. For 2016-2017, MFNPO has been offering a six-part course called “Fundamentals of Human Resources” in three locations. The Winnipeg and Brandon courses sold out quickly. Registration for Thompson is still underway at time of writing. Additionally, MFNPO’s Human Resources and Leadership HUB is on its third cycle, providing a small group of non-profit leaders with intensive training.

Other exciting initiatives under development include the Career Explorations website, launching in 2017 and designed to position the sector as an exciting and meaningful career choice for youth and young adults; and MFNPO’s ongoing pilot of Open Badges as a way to promote innovative and exciting professional development pathways in the sector.

On top of all the work to develop the sector, MFNPO also advocates on the sector’s behalf and takes part in national conversations about the sector’s value to society.

MFNPO employs an Executive Director and an Administrative Coordinator, and engages a handful of external contractors. As a member of the Alliance of Manitoba Sector Councils, MFNPO shares some additional services with the other sector councils located at 1000 Waverley Street. MFNPO is funded by the Government of Manitoba and operates on a budget of about $220,000. A very active Board drives MFNPO’s agenda.

“This is a passionate and dynamic sector,” adds Oakley. “We have seen growing interest in our work and our mission and we are communicating more and innovating to meet the sector’s appetite for knowledge, training, and growth.”