The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is certainly no small organization. We have over 200,000 supporters 24,103 of whom made 31,205 donations to us last year. We also have over 106,000 Facebook fans and thousands more on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
However, from time to time some folks claim the CTF is not a grassroots organization, or that we’re incredibly small, because we have “five members.” The truth is that we sometimes have four, sometimes five and currently we have six. According to our bylaws we can have as few as three and as many as 20.
To be clear, what they, and we, are talking about are our board members.
Our board is made up of accomplished people from across Canada. Not only is each an uncompensated volunteer, all of them are CTF donors. Each has agreed as a condition of board membership to give up any partisan affiliations (no memberships, no donations) and travel up to three times a year to attend board meetings – normally on weekends.
Implying that the organization is small because of the size of its board is peculiar. Walmart has a board of directors of 12 people and is one of the largest companies in the world.
As correctly pointed out, our board members are our “members.” They are responsible to monitor and maintain the integrity of the CTF’s mission, conduct, strategic planning and finances. Each year the board approves any changes to the organization’s strategic plan, annual communications goals and tactics and, of course, the budget. The board also appoints our auditors each year. The CTF’s president and CEO reports to the board of directors.
The board of directors does not have any involvement in the day-to-day operation of the CTF. Nor do any board directors have signing authority on behalf of the organization.
Any Canadian who supports the CTF’s mission can become a “supporter.” This puts them on our email list for regular Action Updates. Currently the CTF has over 200,000 supporters. Supporters are then solicited for donations, of which we received 31,205 totaling $5.1 million in 2017-18. Petition signers are not counted as part of the over 200,000 supporters (if we did that, the number would be over one million). The CTF does not have a charitable tax number or issue charitable donation tax receipts. The CTF does not accept any government funding.
Yet, some folks don’t like the CTF’s structure. The good news for those folks is that they do not have to join or donate to the CTF or contribute any of their tax dollars (let alone support us involuntarily through deduction of mandatory union dues!). As for our existing support base, to our knowledge not a single supporter or donor has left the organization because of our structure. Ever.
The CTF has every incentive to stay closely connected to its supporters and donors. We regularly send surveys and receive more than 100 pieces of correspondence from supporters and donors each week. The feedback is important and helps make us more effective. We know that if we’re not advocating the positions our supporters want, we run the risk of shutting down. Supporters and donors can easily choose not to donate, and we would no longer exist. The decision to support and/or donate is always an individual’s choice.
However, the question of why the CTF does not make every donor/supporter/Canadian a “member,” allowing them to vote annually for board members, the budget, etc. is a fair one.
There are two main reasons:
First, it was the structure handed down by the founders who believed as the organization became more effective that it could be subject to takeover by groups hostile to the CTF. The founders were most concerned about takeover by political parties, but obviously, unions and various other agitators for big government fall into the same category.
But the more important reason is effectiveness. What structure most effectively advances the organization’s mission: One bogged down in meetings, procedures and elections or one that is lean, performance-based and nimble?
Rather than spending our staff’s time and our donors’ funding renting halls for AGMs (ours would require the Skydome), we choose to put our resources where our supporters want them most.
Further, this is the way a majority of not-for-profits and charities operate. The CTF’s structure is similar to those of Greenpeace, Canadian Wildlife Federation, Canadian Human Rights Foundation, Equitas International Centre for Human Rights Education, Terry Fox Foundation and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
In fact, according to a 2003 Statistics Canada report, 20.6% of Canadian charities and not-for-profits had no board members. Of the remaining not-for-profits that did have members, 51% restricted membership. Only 49% of not-for-profits allowed anyone to join as a member. (http://www.imaginecanada.ca/sites/default/files/www/en/library/nsnvo/nsnvo_report_english.pdf, pages 17 and 18.)
In other words, of 161,227 not-for-profits and charities in Canada, 86,179 of them have either no members or restrict membership, just like the CTF does. We expect that any day now our critics will start issuing condemnations of the other 86,178 similar not-for-profits and charities.
We at the CTF believe the highest moral principle of an organization that espouses political views is not grounded in whether its donors get to vote on the bylaws, but whether those donors are forced to contribute or choose to contribute. The offending “member structure” we currently have in place has resulted in voluntary donations to the CTF growing by 33% over the past five years.