Nonprofit organizations and community groups rely on faith communities to access space and facilities to carry out their activities, often at free or below-market value rates. The future of this community service is under threat. Approximately one third of the 27,000 faith buildings in Canada could close their doors in the next ten years, according to the National Trust for Canada.

There are more than 170,000 nonprofits and charities serving communities across Canada. Finding affordable space is a common challenge for nonprofits across Ontario. In major cities, the issue is often affordability, while in rural Ontario the lack of spaces from the closure of many schools has left residents without local space, or requiring travel of long distances to attend public gatherings. Faith buildings include churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and gurdwaras.

Nonprofits and community groups use faith spaces for a variety of local services, such as children’s programs, foodbanks, blood donor clinics, arts performances, senior services, and sports clubs. They are also an important connection to government and democracy such as locations for election polling stations.

According to a 2014 Angus Reid National Household Survey, attendance at religious services at least once per year has dropped to 21%, from 50% in 1996. This has resulted in financial challenges for many faith communities to maintain facilities.

A province-wide survey will identify how nonprofits and community groups use faith buildings, and assess the potential impact of the loss of space in faith buildings. The results will inform a strategy to address how to maintain these services for Ontario communities.

“Nonprofits and charities rely on affordable and accessible spaces in Ontario communities, especially in rural areas. These are often the hubs of community engagement. Without these buildings, many nonprofits would be challenged to carry out their services and programs for local communities,” said Cathy Taylor, Executive Director of the Ontario Nonprofit Network.

“We have known for a while that faith communities are struggling to maintain their buildings. But as the rate of closure speeds up, the impact circle broadens and is now affecting many not for profit and community groups who have relied on these spaces. Before we can begin to address the issue, we need to enumerate it, so we need vital data from the nonprofit sector to create a plan to save these spaces. “ said Kendra Fry, Faith and the Common Good.

About Faith and the Common Good

Faith and the Common Good is leading a research project to identify faith buildings supporting community and nonprofit groups. The two-year study involves the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Cardus, The National Trust For Canada, Ontario Nonprofit Network, and the City of Toronto.

About the “Community Spaces in Faith Places Survey”

The survey is open to any manager or head of a community organization or group that uses space in a faith building in Ontario. The survey will close on June 19.

Survey link: