At YWCA Banff, our mission is to shape a safe and inclusive Bow Valley that empowers women and their community for a better future. This means that our team is committed to supporting women, families, and any individuals experiencing the impacts of sexual and domestic violence by providing emergency shelter, transitional housing, counselling, and outreach services. We’re also a resource for individuals and couples who require affordable housing (and soon families with the arrival of our new Courtyard apartment building!) and offer short-term emergency accommodation for those experiencing temporary homelessness.

We have a lot on the go! And part of being a forward-thinking, flexible organization is making sure that we have stable funding coming in to support our work as it evolves. Enter: our social enterprise model. A major source of funding for our non-profit organization comes from our social enterprise—the YWCA Banff Hotel. Our Hotel is one of the most affordable lodging options for tourists exploring Banff National Park, well-located in the heart of downtown.

What are social enterprises? Most often, they are defined as businesses that both earn revenue and have a positive social impact (think—gyms at YWCAs or Goodwill thrift stores).

What makes the YWCA Banff Hotel a social enterprise? Revenues generated from the Hotel are reinvested into our non-profit organization. Specifically, profits provide instrumental financial support to our domestic and sexual violence prevention and response programs, and to our capital infrastructure (our building is a former hospital, which takes some upkeep!). In addition to helping fund our non-profit, our social enterprise allows us to contribute positively to the economy by generating job opportunities for locals and supporting tourism in Banff.

As a non-profit that serves as a key social agency in the Bow Valley, we’re accountable for services that help ensure the safety of community members who face violence and other adversities. Embracing a social enterprise model means that we can predict where a significant portion of our funding will come from each year, in line with tourism trends in Banff National Park. Running a hotel isn’t always easy—it’s a competitive and demanding endeavor—but it’s been an invaluable opportunity to diversify our funding model and make strategic decisions about how to best address the changing needs of our clients. For civil society groups such as ours, other YWCAs, and all non-profits, financial stability means that affordable and accessible supports for vulnerable Albertans continue to exist during strong and through more difficult economic times.

Along with the YWCAs of Alberta in Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge, we firmly support the UCP’s budget proposal to establish a Civil Society Fund of $20 million supported by the Alberta Lotteries fund. This fund would support innovative, cost-shared programs—like social enterprises—that are run by community groups (e.g. non-profits). Having access to funds for projects focused on social innovation could have a monumental impact on the long-term sustainability of organizations like ours. A Civil Society Fund would support a stronger, more innovative non-profit sector and help ensure that all Albertans can access the supports they need to lead the life of dignity they deserve.

YWCA Banff is working closely with our sister YWCAs to recommend and promote provincial solutions to support the long-term health and well-being of Albertans. Check out the YWCA Edmonton,  YWCA Lethbridge and YW Calgary blogs to learn more about the important work taking place at YWCAs across the province, and the systemic recommendations we have designed together.