May 30, 2022 | Blog

How Universities are Supporting the Not-For-Profit Sector

By Katie McCallum & Kat Cureton, UBC Community Engagement

Universities can be valuable collaborators for the not-for-profit sector. From funding and research to hiring students and event space, there are many opportunities for not-for-profits (NFPs) to partner with universities around shared causes.  

Katie McCallum and Kat Cureton work for the Community Engagement office at the University of British Columbia. Since 2016, they’ve been working together to connect BC’s NFP sector to resources and people at the university. The way they work is founded on the belief that reciprocity and respect is at the core of successful collaboration.  

For our podcast, we spoke with Katie and Kat to learn how universities can be valuable partners in our sector and ask for specific opportunities and resources for NFPs at UBC. Listen to our conversation where we go in more depth, or keep reading for a brief overview of the discussion. 

Kat Cureton (left) and Katie McCallum (right) at UBC’s Vancouver campus.


Q: How are universities supporting the not-for-profit sector?  

UBC students, faculty, and staff are partnering with local and regional communities on projects every day. There are many kinds of mutually supportive collaborations between universities and NFPs:  

  • NFPs often collaborate with students and faculty members on research projects that help answer community questions.  
  • UBC offers funding for community-university partnerships, collaborations, and relationship-building activities. Additionally, partnering with a university can open up new granting opportunities. 
  • Faculty members can be strong allies in advocating for policy change. They may be involved in government advisories, or publish recommendations that get media attention.   
  • Students can offer talent, time, energy, and new perspectives. They are eager to learn and the NFP sector can be a great opportunity for them to gain professional experience. 
  • Universities can serve as natural conveners on issues that bridge sectors. UBC has many collaborators who love to partner on dialogues and public events that shine a light on issues that matter in our community. 

Q: How can not-for-profit leaders start building relationships at UBC?  

UBC is a huge organization and can be daunting to navigate. Through our Community Partner Help Desk, we can help you connect with UBC programs and resources that could support your work. Some of the most common requests we get from NFPs are to:  

  • Access research and connect to UBC librarians 
  • Find experts to participate in your events or join advisory boards 
  • Share job and volunteer postings with UBC students 
  • Hire students through our co-op and internship programs 
  • Collaborate on events or projects 
  • Communicate to UBC audiences about your opportunities and events 

We connect the work of the NFP sector with work happening at UBC but it can take time to find and make those connections. Reach out to our Community Partner Help Desk to learn more. We are always happy to start a conversation. 

Q: How can UBC help with funding?  

We offer funding to NFPs and other community organizations specifically to support partnerships between community partners and the university.  

Our flagship program is the Community-University Engagement Support Fund (CUES). To date, the fund has awarded over $1.7 million to 81 different community groups — including 32 Indigenous communities and organizations — and it was just approved for another 5 years!  

Paid directly to community partners, our funding reduces financial barriers and prioritizes reciprocal, inclusive engagement so more communities can benefit, especially those who are historically, persistently, or systemically marginalized. CUES funding can be used to support community-university collaboration on engaged research and scholarship, engaged learning, knowledge exchange, or civic engagement activities. 

Alternatively, our Partnership Recognition Fund is designed to help fill small resource gaps (up to $1,500) and acknowledge the work of community groups that partner with UBC. Funding is offered several times throughout the year. We especially welcome applications for projects that advance equity and justice through reciprocal community engagement. 

Beyond our own funds, partnering with faculty, staff, and even students on projects can open new doors to funding opportunities like the federal SSHRC Partnership Grants 

Q: How can NFPs hire UBC students? 

There are many exciting new initiatives at UBC that have been designed to connect students with the NFP sector.  

If you are looking to hire a graduate student for a short-term project, the Arts Amplifier hosts info sessions for graduate students to learn about community partner organizations and jobs. They can also help you find funding to hire graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. 

UBC is currently piloting a community based Work-Learn program. In the new program, UBC gives funding to organizations to hire equity-deserving undergraduate students. This year, five to ten NFPs are taking part in the pilot.    

UBC’s Centre for Community Engaged Learning incorporates student learning into community projects. They will work with you to develop a pertinent program or initiative, and then find a way to integrate it into course-work. 

Finally, UBC CareersOnline is a free job and volunteer board that thousands of students and alumni have access to. Hot tip: Late spring is a great time to post a job or volunteer opportunity as students have just started their summer breaks.   

Q: What other resources are available to NFPs at UBC?  

So much we could go on forever. The Community Scholars Program (CSP) provides BC non-profits and charitable organizations with free access to academic journals and research. If you’re looking for research to cite in your grant applications, there are dedicated CSP librarians that can help you. 

The Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal, developed by the UBC Learning Exchange (an amazing community learning hub in Vancouver’s DTES) and UBC Libraries, provides free access to research and research-related materials relevant to the DTES.  

UBC is also home to a vibrant arts and culture district, gardens, and an active farm that are all open to exploring partnerships and collaborations. 

Lastly, it would be remiss of us to not mention opportunities to learn. UBC is a contributing partner to EdX, a huge collection of open, online courses and programs taught by university professors, online, at no or little cost. UBC also offers continuing education courses, aimed at working professionals.  


Universities work at a different pace and annual cycle than the NFP sector and it can be challenging to perfectly align everyone’s needs and objectives. That said, every day, people on and off-campus work together on joint initiatives that benefit both communities and universities. The first steps are to connect, listen, and get to know one another — just as you would with any new relationship. 

Whether it is engaged research, experiential learning, planning and policy development, educational programming, dialogue projects, or workshops — our impact grows when we work together. 

Connect with the UBC Community Partner Help Desk to start exploring opportunities to collaborate on your initiatives.  

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