Municipalities Matter: Public Funding for the Nonprofit Sector, 1960-2017



municipal government, social services, urban life, government


Nonprofit organizations are an essential feature of urban life. In turn, municipal governments are critical to Canada’s public funding ecosystem for the nonprofit sector. Yet every study of public funding for the nonprofit sector focusses on the federal or provincial governments, even though municipalities provide more funding each year than the federal government. This article is the first study to document the scale and breadth of municipal funding for Community Service Organizations using Vancouver and Victoria as case studies. It documents every grant from the two municipalities between 1960 and 2017 as well as ten years of recent Property Tax Exemptions. It demonstrates, among other things, how municipal funding for the nonprofit sector has increased dramatically in recent years. Furthermore, it demonstrates how the impact of municipal funding for the nonprofit sector has been constrained by a tendency to concentrate funding among a small number of established organizations; a preference for a few sectors such as arts and culture; and a lack of sustainable funding. The article includes a detailed methodological discussion on how to collect data on municipal funding, which is far more difficult and complex than documenting funding from other levels of government in Canada.