Update | Sector-wide retirement plan becoming a reality

publication date: Jan 15, 2019
author/source: The Common Good consortium

Funded by several Foundations and supported by a blue ribbon volunteer committee, over the last six months Common Good has been engaging Canada’s nonprofit sector on the possibility of establishing a national, portable, collective retirement plan for the sector. In a sector with limited options, this is excellent news.

The time has come

Common Good set out to gauge the nonprofit sector's interest in a national, portable retirement plan and they have repeatedly heard that this is an idea whose time has come. There have been discussions for years about retirement security, including recent efforts by the Ontario Nonprofit Network to facilitate a pension plan for Ontario nonprofits, an initiative that complements Common Good.

While there are some important nuances to work out, the feedback has been very positive. Stakeholders like the flexibility, the collective approach, and the nonprofit, fiduciary governance. As for interest from the sector, both the number of committed employers and the survey results exceeded our shared expectations.

1. Demand for Common Good is higher than expected

2. The proposed design meets the sector’s needs

3. Employers want and need support

a. Although interest in a collective retirement plan is high, both employers and workers understandably struggle to make retirement security a top priority amid competing demands on their time like funding, operations, program delivery, and day-to-day human capital issues. As a result, the effort required to engage employers was higher than we anticipated. That may change as Common Good scales and establishes a track record. Also, many stakeholders would like some kind of local presence as part of the delivery of Common Good, at least in major centres.

4. Demand for financial education

a. The program heard repeatedly that both employers and workers lack confidence and knowledge on retirement and other financial issues. They are not sure whom to trust and they are keenly interested in high quality fiduciary education about retirement planning.

Exciting progress

Common Good has made good progress to date including

● Secured in-principle commitments from 65 employers across Canada

● Engaged between 300 and 400 employers in the sector in consultation about Common Good and retirement security more broadly

● Conducted a national survey of nearly 1,000 workers and employers in the sector, in collaboration with Pollara Strategic Insights

● Issued a detailed consultation paper with a proposed design for Common Good and gathered feedback on this proposal from a wide range of sector stakeholders

● Convened eight roundtables in seven cities/regions, from St John’s to Vancouver, in partnership with groups like Vantage Point, the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, the Institute for Community Prosperity, Sport Matters, the Centre for Social Innovation, PEI’s Cooper Institute, the Community Sector Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Alberta Nonprofit Network Exploratory Committee

● Built an 18-member Champions Council for Common Good comprised of leaders from across the nonprofit sector who are working to advance the initiative in their communities

● Conducted research on opportunities to improve the public policy environment for saving for lower- and moderate-income workers


International recognition Common Good has received international attention as an innovative effort to strengthen financial security in a changing economy. In the UK, Common Good was shortlisted for the RSA’s Future Work Awards and was profiled by the research arm of NEST, the pension plan for uncovered workers set up by the UK government. In the U.S., Common Good has been featured in Forbes and profiled by the Aspen Institute at an event on the future of work and wealth.

Next steps

The coalition behind Common Good is committed to the vision of establishing a national collective retirement plan for the sector. In light of what they have learned in the past six months, building Common Good to be both sustainable and most impactful will require additional work, as well as funding to support the effort.

Over the next six months, Common Good will:

1. Develop a regionally-based partnership model to maximize Common Good’s impact within local communities and provide an affordable and effective means of scaling the plan. In collaboration with Vancity, we will test this model in B.C.

2. Develop the governance model underpinning Common Good and continue our work to refine the plan design to ensure it meets the needs of the sector

3. Validate their engagement model to grow sector demand and achieve a critical mass of committed employers

4. Build support for Common Good among policy makers and advance policy ideas to improve the saving environment for lower- and moderate-income workers

5. Expand Common Good's national reach by conducting regional employer roundtables in partnership with local nonprofits and champions

They continue to explore partnerships with new funders to ensure that Common Good has the required resources to execute on the design and distribution model that is the focus of our next phase.

They are optimistic that with the right partners, design and engagement model, Common Good could be open to enrolment as early as 2019.

Interested in learning more or helping? Contact commongoodplan.org to learn how you can join the initiative.

Common Good Steering Committee

Alan Broadbent (Chair), Maytree Foundation

Owen Charters, Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada

Rahima Mamdani, United Way Greater Toronto

Elizabeth Mulholland, Prosper Canada

Common Good Champions Council

Colette Murphy (Chair), Atkinson Foundation

Alison Brewin, Vantage Point

Peter Chapman, SHARE

Adil Dhalla, Centre for Social Innovation

Debbie Douglas, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)

Franca Gucciardi, McCall MacBain Foundation

Tim Jackson, SHAD

David Mitchell, Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO)

Meghan Moore, Loran Scholars Foundation

Liz O’Neill, Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area

Lee Rose, Community Knowledge Exchange

Penelope Rowe, Community Sector Council NL

Paulette Senior, Canadian Women’s Foundation

Lindsay Hugenholtz Sherk, Sport Matters

Richard Shillington, Social Policy Expert

John Stapleton, Metcalf Foundation

James Stauch, Institute for Community Prosperity

Ann Wheatley, Cooper Institute

Common Good Expert Advisors

Keith Ambachtsheer

Edward J. Waitzer

Common Good Technical and Operations Partner

Common Wealth

Common Good Funding Partners



Atkinson Foundation

Hamilton Community Foundation

Metcalf Foundation

Lawson Foundation

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