Changes to update and modernize the Societies Act are coming, but how are local non-profits coping?

Bill 24 replaces the current Society Act, which was enacted in 1977, and while the changes are set to take place in November, non-profit organizations will have 18 months to adhere.

As it turns out, at this point many local non-profits aren’t clear on what changes the province intends to make, and therefore, non-profits aren’t coping at all yet.

“We intentionally left our bylaws as simple as we could,” says Korie Marshall, president of the Valemount Geothermal Society (VGS).

“We’ll need to look at the new act after it comes into force and see if there is anything we want to change in our bylaws,” she says.

The changes to the Societies Act are to allow for non-profit organizations to operate effectively and efficiently, according to Minister of Finance Michael de Jong.

However, President of the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA), Patricia Thoni, says YORA doesn’t have any members who are well versed in re-writing bylaws, making the change the opposite of effective or efficient, at this point.

“We don’t think we can afford to bring an outside consultant in,” says Thoni.

Which is exactly what Valemount and Area Recreation Development Association (VARDA) is doing.

“The transition to the new act is not that onerous, although we have hired outside help with a small budget to help us with the transition and update our bylaws accordingly,” says Curtis Pawliuk, VARDA’s general manager, in an email.

VARDA was acquainted with a lawyer, whom it hired, through its involvement in Avalanche Canada, notes Pawliuk.

The new Societies Act makes a point of distinguishing between publicly funded societies and private member-funded societies, according to a government press release.

Publicly funded societies, such as charities or others that receive significant public funding, will be subject to several new accountability measures including making sure the majority of board directors are not employees or contractors of the society, and that directors’ compensation be publicly disclosed, the press release reads.

Member-funded societies, such as sports clubs and professional organizations, will be exempt from the requirements, according to the province.

The new act adopts specific corporate governance procedures from the Business Corporations Act, according to the province, but generally provides societies with the flexibility to create bylaws based on their individual characteristics and the needs of the communities they serve.

Another change to the act, societies will be able to file documents electronically with the corporate registry, the province says.

The introduction of the new act follows two rounds of consultations with stakeholders and members of the public, according to the province, during which time the Province received more than 200 unique submissions.

There are more than 27,000 societies in B.C., ranging from small community-based organizations to large charitable organizations, according to the province.