Our Work

Examples of our work

Can a provincial association grow with few resources? When the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA) had grown to a point where it could bring on a part-time executive director, they turned to Mendicant for help. In our ongoing work with their board, committees and part-time staff, we identified new lines of business, revamped their events, helped focused their government advocacy and launched a new website. The result? In our first three years of work with the organization, we were able to grow the organization's revenue by more than 180%, paying off its deficit and putting the organization on a path towards growth. Now nine years after we began working with them, ONEIA is perhaps the most cost-effective association in Canada. Using a combination of virtual applications and a "lean office" approach, the association effectively advocates with policymakers and hosts events for a growing number of members.

What if charities and nonprofits could earn new income from their own businesses? One of the most exciting new areas in the charitable and nonprofit sector is the growing field of social enterprise. If organizations can establish successful revenue-generating operations inside their nonprofit shell, they can direct more unrestricted funds to their mission - and have the flexibility to try new and more innovative approaches to social problems that traditional funders may not support. Mendicant regularly works with social enterprises to write business plans, research new markets, develop new offerings and evaluate the best opportunities for success. We have also pioneered a new "social sales" approach that coaches teams inside social enterprises to jointly set targets and deliver results against them.

Is it possible to change the Foster Care system? One of the most rewarding projects Mendicant has ever been involved with was our collaboration in 2011-12 on the Our Voice, Our Turn project. The more than 8,000 young people who are in Ontario's Foster Care system face multiple challenges - and every few years, governments have tried (and largely failed) to make things better. Mendicant was part of a team that answered a challenge from the Ontario Advocate for Children and Youth: What if young people in and from the system got together, started their own conversations, held their own hearings and wrote their own report? In just 18 months, the team were able to support young people do just that. Their Queen's Park days were called "the best hearings ever held in the legislature." The recommendations in their final report (wholly adopted by the province) were a milestone in the evolution of the system to better serve these vulnerable - and incredible - young people.

If you start from scratch, can you research, design and evaluate a community program for real impact? Much of Mendicant's work involves evaluating (or fixing) existing social programs whose purpose and justifications are often lost in time. With The Prince's Operation Entrepreneur, however, we were able to research, design and evaluate a program from scratch. Working with Prince's Charities Canada and the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (now Futurpreneur), we were asked to research whether there was a need for a national program that could help the growing number of people transitioning from the Canadian military to start and run businesses. Our team conducted research across Canada and in the US and UK. We determined that there was a need, and then brought a coalition of partners together, writing a business plan for this new initiative. The research, plan and partnerships were able to leverage support for a three-year pilot conducted at three locations across Canada. Mendicant also developed and implements an annual comprehensive evaluation that allows program managers to identify issues, make improvements and measure their impact over time.

Can a charity grow at the same rates as a software company? The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (now Futurpreneur) faced a significant challenge in 2006. The demand for its start-up loans, mentoring and support from young people across Canada was significant. Funders were interested in its potential to impact grassroots community development. The organization needed to focus its operations and grow quickly to meet demand. In a project that took just three months, our team conducted global benchmarking research and helped the Foundation identify how it could expand its offering and reach even more young entrepreneurs across the country.Through this (and two subsequent planning exercises in the following years), we helped CYBF/Futurpreneur grow by more than 30% annually (a rate only found in Silicon Valley), supporting new businesses across the country and becoming a recognized "best-in-class" organization.

Can you do a strategic plan in one day? Some of the types of clients Mendicant is proud to serve are small- to mid-size non-profit organizations that need a strategic plan to guide their operations, but that do not have significant resources to invest in the more thorough approachemployed by their larger competitors. We have pioneered a "fast and lean" approach to planning that helps these small organizations and their boards research their issues, consider their options and decide on a basic strategic direction. And the best part? We can do it in just one day. Working with clients as diverse as the Canadian Mental Health Association (York Region) and the Centre for Immigrant and Community Services (CICS), we have conducted advance research, designed a board-staff retreat and facilitated a day-long session that allowed them to set their strategic direction for the next three years.

Can the world learn from Canada's approach to civil society? At Mendicant, we believe the answer is a resounding "yes!" While Canada has much to learn from other countries in a number of fields, we know that Canadians do charitable and non-profit work really, really well. Mendicant's team has worked in (so far) 12 different countries, designing and facilitating meetings, conducting research, hosting strategic planning sessions and bringing diverse groups of stakeholders and funders together. Our team currently functions in five different languages, and our growing global network allows us to share the innovative solutions we have pioneered in Canada with a growing list of clients around the world.

Is it possible to transplant a non-profit program from one country to another? The Royal Conservatory of Music was presented with a great opportunity in 2010. Its award-winning Learning Through the Arts (LTTA) program, which places artists in the classroom to help teachers present content in new and interesting ways, has been proven to significantly improve the results of hard-to-reach students. Schools and funders in the UK were interested in these results - but how could a Canadians organization broker an arrangement to pilot this program in another country? With the support of Prince's Charities Canada and its UK partner, The Prince's Foundation for Children and the Arts, Mendicant researched the UK landscape and brought stakeholders together for a London meeting. The result? An MoU that saw the Canadian program and a UK partner agree to pilot LTTA in a number of schools, sharing this important Canadian innovation with new communities.

How can a small organization improve its governance? For those who administer charities and nonprofits, the board-staff-volunteer relationship can be a source of great strength and support - but also a challenge. When governance works well, the organization speeds along, but when there are issues, it can grind to a crashing halt. Smartcommute North Toronto Vaughan was a rarity in this regard. It had a governance process that was functioning fairly well, but asked Mendicant to review its processes and procedures to determine how it could work better. Our governance review begins with a download of information from the senior staff, then progresses to interviews and an e-survey with the board, followed by a review of bylaws, policies and procedures and comparison to best practice. Our independent report was a comprehensive "health check" for organizational governance that identified productive and proactive areas for the board and staff to work on in the coming years.