A lot of non-profit work goes on below surface, council told

More than 900 community groups in Langley are making the community a better place, according to study

Dave Stark

Dave Stark

More than 900 community groups in Langley are making the community a better place, and the vast majority of them are doing so “under the iceberg.”

That information was given to Langley Township council on Monday night by Dave Stark and Douglas Dunn, who have done a detailed study of the extent of non-profit involvement in the Langley community and economy.

They told council that close to 44,000 people volunteer in Langley, and contribute 7.3 million hours in volunteer time each year. About 6,000 serve as volunteer board members.

Stark said that the study provides detail to back the widespread perception that “Langley is a very giving community.”

“The information was eye-opening,” he said.

Dunn said that non-profits account for 7.8 per cent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and this figure shows the importance to the economy of non-profit activity.

To put it in perspective, Dunn said the non-profit sector is 11 times larger than the motor vehicle business and four times larger than agriculture.

“Under the iceberg” refers to “smaller and more informal community groups, the vast majority of which are completely volunteer-operated,” the study states.

“The vision of the Langley model is not to discount the visible, but pay more attention to the foundation of the iceberg, which is large and easily-missed.”

The study is part of a larger effort to create more opportunities for non-profit organizations to work together, attract more volunteers, improve governance and get overall support from each other and the community at large.

While the initial work in bringing the sector together used the name “Langley Chamber of Community Service,” Stark said that is now being downplayed.

Councillor Charlie Fox asked about the relationship with Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce.

Dunn replied that the organizers have been working with the chamber, which has helped non-profits obtain liability insurance for directors and is also putting on a “Show Me the Money” seminar for non-profits. It will be held on April 26.

He and Stark said that, in some communities, there are separate chambers for businesses and non-profits, while in others, the chamber of commerce has a non-profit committee..

“We hope for a close and amiable relationship with them (the chamber),” Dunn said.

“What will this group eventually do?” asked Councillor Kim Richter.

“We envision a place where non-profits can gather. The economic impact (of non-profits) far outstrips the respect the sector gets.

“There are many aspects that can benefit — fundraising, governance, software and legal, among them,” Dunn said.

Stark said the non-profit chamber, as it is informally known, is not seeking a steady stream of grants from the Township, which provided $2,500 towards the study.

“Our goal is to be self-sufficient,” he said.