How we operate

How does operate? | Where does get its support?
Is a charity? | Where does support go? | Operating principles

How we operate

How does operate? is a networked, community-led, post-partisan, award-winning civic engagement organization. The majority of our support comes from small, individual donations by concerned Canadians.

Networked is a networked organization. This means that we collaborate with a fluid and broad ranging network of organizations and people. Each member of this diverse pro-Internet community has unique talents, resources, and energy to contribute to our shared objective: to safeguard the possibilities of the open and affordable Internet.

From event coordination to policy submissions, from web development to online outreach, and from media production to research and strategy, we know that our work is made successful when we connect pro-Internet community members’ unique creativity and ingenuity together.

Community-led is a community-led organization. Our operational style is inspired by the open participation in culture and commerce enabled by the Internet, and strives to crowdsource wherever we can. Our grassroots community is embedded deep in the DNA of our organization and regularly inspires us to push our work further than we could have imagined or carried out on our own.

Our best campaigns are always crowdsourced from the start (see here, here, here, here, and here).
It doesn’t stop there: we also crowdsource most of our government meetings (see here and here) and presentations (see our CRTC presentation on usage-based billing), and we do our best to always report back. We even get Canadians actively involved in some of our reports—check out our 150-page research report and Action Plan for a Connected Canada.

We don’t just want a seat at the table when government makes decisions, we want and actively work to put citizens at the center of government decision-making. One of our proudest moments came when our community successfully forced the CRTC to open one of its closed-door meetings to public participation.


No political party or orientation owns the Internet—the Internet is a fair, neutral space for dialogue, sharing, and commerce. is a post-partisan organization that works across political orientations and party affiliations. We do not favour one party over any others, but we recognize pro-Internet political candidates and celebrate when parties or representatives take action (see here, here, here, here) for the open and affordable Internet. We’re also more than happy to meet with politicians from any political party, as you can see here, here, here, here, and from these videos:

The open and affordable Internet brings together citizens, business, and the government—it’s all of us together who benefit from the Internet’s generativity and rely on the Internet for free expression, content production, access to services, commerce, and connecting with friends, and family.


Where does get its support?

The 21st century is a connected century, where the divisions between government and citizens, business and consumers, and people from all walks of life are being transformed. is proud to enjoy support from a broad pro-Internet community of individuals, civil society organizations, and businesses. We have an open donation policy1 and we always uphold the privacy of our supporters first and foremost while working hard to ensure we continue to lead in governance transparency.

We’ve worked hard since our founding to make sure that no one source of support for our work is strong enough to influence our operations and we're proud of the diversity of supporters who contribute to our work.

Small donations from individuals is the foundation of our support: nearly 75 cents of every dollar raised comes from small, individual donations. Our average donation from our monthly allies program is just $8, and we stretch every dollar to ensure this grassroots funding goes a long way. Our most important source of support is our amazing pro-Internet community of engaged citizens: approximately 20 interns every year, a robust and expanding group of deeply committed volunteers, and the 600,000+ members of our online community across Canada (and now the world) (the largest organized group of engaged citizens in the country).

Donations 2011 Pie Chart

This pro-Internet community drives and guides our work. Our famous Stop The Meter campaign hit its stride and was successful largely due to the network of people and organizations that came together to stop usage-based Internet billing from being punitively imposed on all Canadians.

The same thing happened with the Stop Online Spying campaign where a diverse coalition of groups and people came together to fight warrantless online spying, including citizens like Jeremy Brown of Rattlesnake Films and other members of our Digital Action Team who made crucial video and audio PSAs. The Stop Online Spying campaign also benefitted from two volunteer developers, Connie Fournier and Quincy Lam, who headed up the development of a cutting-edge letter-to-the-editor tool, which allows Canadians to easily write and submit letters to their local newspaper editors.

It's stories like these—of personal contribution to help educate and mobilize Canadians—that give our community the grassroots power to help make the Internet in Canada more open, affordable, and surveillance-free.

Our small, dedicated team will ensure your contribution goes a long way. Please join us.

  • If you’re an individual, you can make a donation to here, or join our special Allies program here.
  • If you operate or work at a business, you can support our work by contacting us here.
  • If you represent a civil society organization interested in supporting us or joining our network of organizations, contact us here.


Is a charity?

In Canada, charitable organizations must limit their activities to work involving education, relief of poverty, religion, or a few other tightly defined activities. Like most citizen engagement groups, does not fit in any one of these narrow categories. Therefore, while is a registered non-profit organization, we are also a non-charitable organization. cannot provide charitable tax receipts for donations. We are however, proud to support charitable education work through our donor-advised fund at Tides Canada Foundation.

The Open Media Education Fund supports the charitable work of organizations that advance and promote open communications systems through education. These funds are used to collaborate with charitable organizations to support strictly educational work that advances our mission. The Open Media Education Fund does not support’s advocacy work. We raise awareness about the fund’s important role in media education in Canada, and make it available as an option on our Donate page, but no money flows directly from Tides Canada to You can donate to the Open Media Education Fund by clicking here.


Where does support go?

In the last year, support from the pro-Internet community has helped us expand from a tiny staff of 2.5 full-time employees to a still-nimble staff of 3.5. Each of us has our hands full running a wide range of large-scale, high-profile campaigns and projects. We are extremely grateful to the pro-Internet community for allowing us to make this absolutely necessary investment in our capacity.

In 2011, Approximately ⅔ of our budget was spent on campaigns. The other third was spent on operations and fundraising, including rent, office supplies, accounting and legal services—all of which are crucial to our campaigning efforts.

Expenses 2011 Bar Graph


Operating principles

In addition to the above we strive to adhere to the “web thinking” operating principles below.

We will position ourselves as movement leaders

We will be more concerned with our community, our broader mission in the world than with building a brand or institution. And we will reflect this reality in all of our work. We seek to work across traditional boundaries of race, class, gender identification and religion to build alliances that truly represent the people impacted by our issues. We can't be afraid to talk about other efforts in our space, to link generously and be genuinely proud of the successes of our friends and allies. Their success drives our success and drives the change that makes our existence worthwhile.

We will engage web thinkers in leadership

We will make it mandatory for the people in charge of Internet and digital strategies to be in senior staff meetings – and be sure they serve at the highest level of the organization. Planning a new campaign or initiative without "new media" at the table is as foolish as holding that same meeting without Communications or Membership Directors.

We will engage everyone in web thinking

We will understand the difference between IT and the Internet and ensure all staff/volunteers share responsibility for leveraging the web in their daily work. Not everyone will understand the latest tools and tricks, but collectively, we will appreciate the web's value and the critical role it plays in the lives of our audiences.

We will hire digital natives

We will embrace millennials because we understand the difference between learning about technology and growing up digital—between speaking Internet as a foreign language and speaking web natively. Internet culture is radically changing the way people engage not only with one another but also with organizations. Transparency, collaboration, and open dialog – millennials can show others how to develop these cultural norms and values. We will listen and learn with them.

We will look outward

We will value the opinions of users, members and volunteers as highly (or more) than we value our own. Developing a deep understanding of our constituents gives us the information we need to establish strong and trusted relationships. We will talk with our constituents, listen, ask for feedback, and find out what matters most to them.

We will let go of control

We will try to be open and ego-free, and to give our campaigns away. We will trust our supporters with important work—as important as that performed by staff. We will prioritize building systems that enable our audience to carry out our mission, over building departments for doing that work on our own. We will consider it a sign of success to see our brand or message distributed far and wide in ways we could never anticipate. We will add value by providing frameworks, clear theories of change, and even leadership training and empowerment, rather than detailed recipes. The movement adds value by iterating, improving, and innovating on that framework.

We will tap our movements to get smarter

We will seek out the collective intelligence of our community—recognizing it is greater than any number of us sitting around a conference table. By transparently asking for help and ideas when we need them most and by collaborating with partners, we will gain priceless insights and assistance. We will use new tools for facilitating dialogue, enabling the best ideas to rise to the top.

We will connect people directly

We want a community—not foot-soldiers. People respond to people, not to brands or figureheads, which is why we will seek ways to connect people with shared passions, both online and in person. We've seen that great things happen when we get out of the way. We will provide connections, support, leadership, direction and venues, but ultimately look to empower people to build strong relationships that don't depend on us. WE will encourage interdependence and mutual aid both between individuals and organizations.

We will emulate and innovate

We will watch intently, study and learn from others in the online space. We will share and track successes and failures. And we will shamelessly incorporate ideas that work. That said, the web is unchartered territory and we will also not be afraid to fail with new ideas. In fact, we will plan to fail. And we will rely on others to tell us where we're off so we can respond. The open source mantra, "release early and often," presents a useful model for organizations prepared to iterate rather than launch fully baked programs.

We will be nimble

We will move at the speed of the Internet—and the instantaneous news cycle. We will set up structures that eschew bureaucracy and allow us to move both quickly and strategically. Organizations that are positioned to respond rapidly are rewarded. We will redefine what it means to be proactive on issues. We will create and distribute news directly and we will hijack, adapt, and redirect the traditional news cycle to fit our campaigns and issues.

We will remember that it's not about the campaign

We will keep our eye on the ball and evaluate openly and honestly whether our tactics are connected to real life change.


Thanks for reading

If you have any questions about how we operate, we’d love to hear from you! Visit to get in touch with your team.





[1] We have an open donation policy that ensure respect for the anonymity and privacy of our supporters. In line with our privacy policy, we only publicize those supporters who have given us express permission to do so.

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