Call for more collaboration by charities to tackle social issues

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Bermuda’s social ills have heightened the need for collaboration between social service agencies, Centre on Philanthropy head Elaine Williams has warned.

“Bermuda has more charities per square mile than anywhere in the world, yet there remains opportunity for our third sector to accomplish much more,” Ms Williams told Hamilton Rotary Club.

“Opportunities abound as the Island continues to contend with a range of social issues including poverty, gang violence, unemployment and an ageing population.”

Currently, the organisation counts nearly 400 registered non-profit groups in the Island, generating $70 million in revenue or around 1.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product. Non-profits now employ in the region of 900 people — roughly 2.3 percent of the local workforce.

The Island is also seeing the rise of “social entrepreneurship”, Ms Williams said: ventures, such as the ISIS Foundation, that set out to tackle a particular social goal through direct investment.

However, actual donor giving does not always align with “social priorities”, and many existing social service agencies don’t have the infrastructure or capacity to respond.

Ms Williams said the Island’s charities legislation was still in the process of being updated to cut down on duplication and gaps in services, and develop a “more robust legal and regulatory infrastructure to assist both non-profit and their funders”.

The Centre on Philanthropy also signed a Memorandum of Understanding last year with the Registry General to promote transparency and best practices, she said.

“During 2013 we provided 60 training opportunities that were attended by 752 people.

“Biennially, The Centre on Philanthropy hosts Bermuda’s only Third Sector Conference.

“Conference trainings and events feature international and local speakers, who conduct presentations and workshops focused on current trends in the Third Sector.”

The group’s February 2013 Third Sector conference was attended by 544 people from the broader community of non-profits, donors and volunteers, while the website has “more than 5,000 registered users” in its online matching system.

The Centre has also partnered with Government for the second time this summer in a Third Sector Summer Intern Programme for high school students.

Ms Williams predicted that current social trends would continue to strain the Third Sector’s capacity to respond.

“Providing capacity-building opportunities and rallying the community to support the non-profit can have a tangible impact,” she said.

“There will always be a need for charities — and as long as the establishment of charities is monitored by entities such as the Charities Commission and the Registry General who collectively vet, register and promote best practices of charities operating in Bermuda, things should only improve.”