Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

A Contingency View of the Responses of Voluntary Social Service Organizations in Ontario to Government Cutbacks

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences

A Contingency View of the Responses of Voluntary Social Service Organizations in Ontario to Government Cutbacks

Article excerpt


Voluntary organizations in Ontario have been thrust into a new environment; government funding on which they have traditionally counted has been reduced to the extent that actions have to be taken in order for some organizations to survive. Using a sample of 85 from a mailed survey to voluntary social service organizations in Toronto, we collected information on how organizational characteristics are influencing the actions taken in the face of these changes. We found that the alternatives considered factored into five dimensions: enhancing the image of the organization; cutting costs; developing strategic plans and accountability; implementing new tactics, such as user fees; and restructuring the governance and management structure. Analysis showed that younger organizations, smaller-sized agencies, and those with a diverse set of funding sources employ a wider range of options to deal with environmental challenges. Many of these options are directed at protecting the main mission of the organization and building awareness and marketing strength so that the organization reduces its susceptibility to environmental shifts.


Les organismes de benevolat de l'Ontario sont plonges dans un nouveau contexte, car les subventions gouvernementales sur lesquelles ils comptaient jusqu'a present sont reduites a un point tel que des mesures doivent else prises afin qu'ils puissent survivre. Un Bondage effectue par la poste aupres de 85 organismes de services sociaux benevoles de Toronto nous a permis de rassembler des donnees montrant que certaines caracteristiques organisationnelles peuvent influences les mesures a prendre face ei de tels changements, et nous avons envisage cinq solutions possibles pour remedies a la situation : rehausser l'image de ces organismes; reduire leurs coats; mettre sur pied certaines strategies et rendre compte de leurs activates; utiliser de nouvelles tactiques, tels des frais d'utilisation; ainsi qu'en restructures l'administration et la gestion. Il ressort de cette analyse que les organismes plus recents et de plus petite taille ainsi que ceux beneficiant de sources de financement plus varies peuvent utiliser un plus vaste ventail d'options pour contrer les difficultes que presente la conjoncture actuelle. La plupart de ces possibilites visent a preserver la mission principale de ces organismes et a renforcer leur vision et leur politique de marketing afin de reduire leur vulnerabilite face a tout changement conjoncturel.

Globalization, the digital revolution, and fundamental shifts in policies and politics have had a welldocumented impact on both the for-profit and voluntary sectors in Canada (Drache & Ranachan, 1995; Johnson, McBride, & Smith; 1994). Although the earliest recorded voluntary organization dates back to 1685 (J. Scott, 1992), the sector became an economic force only in the last 35 years as it grew in tandem with the emerging welfare state forged in Canada following World War II. In Canada during the halcyon postwar years, both the federal and provincial governments encouraged the formation of voluntary organizations. They were to be part of an elaborate social welfare system, allies of the state, extending specialized services that the government was uninterested in or unable to provide. Many organizations were created, representing a myriad of causes, interests, and groups. Not only did voluntary organizations receive generous core and service-related funding from government sources, but more importantly, they also gained legitimacy to represent and serve their various constituencies (Tucker, Singh, Meinhard, & House, 1990). By the mid-1970s the construction of the social welfare system, which involved delivery of programs and services by both government and voluntary agencies, had been largely completed. This collaborative infrastructure provided a munificent and stable environment, encouraging the rapid growth of the sector.

Since the mid-1980s, however, there has been a creeping erosion of the social welfare state in Canada as neo-conservative political philosophy has come to replace the social democratic liberalism of the postwar era (Hall & Banting, 2000; Jeffrey, 1999; McBride & Shields, 1997; Prince, 1999). …

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