The sector includes everything from small, community-based organizations to large national agencies such as the YMCA and the Canadian Red Cross. It includes organizations run essentially by volunteers, as well as those with large professional staffs that have years of experience in managing large budgets.
The sector plays a vital role in Canadian civil society, a role upon which governments at all levels have come to depend on. Organizations in the sector draw their income primarily from contributions and grants. These come from all levels of government, from private industry and also from private benefactors. While some organizations in this sector earn revenue from services they provide, most are focused simply on programming. They are, therefore, heavily dependent on transfers from government and are strongly affected by shifts in government policy. Therefore, they are severely affected by any shortcomings of the governmental grants and contributions regime.