The charitable sector is facing extraordinary uncertainty in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Charities and non-profits saw their balance sheets battered in the early weeks of the pandemic as many cash-strapped Canadians were forced to scale back their usual generosity and conserve as much cash as possible.
But despite being forced to manage in the face of widespread industry shutdowns and increasing unemployment, Canadians are once again digging deep into their pockets as the initial shock of the COVID-19 situation subsides and we slowly settle into a new normal of social distancing and business closures.
As reported in the Globe and Mail, CanadaHelps noted a 62 per cent year-over-year increase last month in donors, with a 92 per cent spike in overall donations to various charities. CanadaHelps also saw a 58 per cent increase in the number of donors committing to monthly donation plans.
“We first saw a really big dip in the first few days [of the pandemic],” CanadaHelps CEO Marina Glogovac told the Globe. “And then we saw an unprecedented, breathtaking rally in Canadians supporting charities.”
This is inspiring yet not surprising to us at Canada Gives. Despite some media reports in recent years of declining support to charities, we know that Canadians are a very philanthropic lot. Across the Canada Gives donor community, for example, we’ve recorded a marked increase in charitable giving and the creation of new foundations all across Canada over the past year. We’ve also been inundated with grant requests in recent weeks, demonstrating the real commitment that Canada Gives Foundation account holders have to giving. It’s especially heartening to know that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the worst in more than 100 years, our foundation clients are finding ways to support those who need our help the most.
Now, we want to do more to enhance that countrywide outpouring of support.
The reality in times of crisis is that the majority of donations tend to flow to larger charities—think the Canadian Red Cross, the United Way or major urban food banks. These are all completely worthwhile causes that deserve as much support as they can muster. Often these larger, well funded organizations have significant marketing budgets, and they have the ability to communicate key messaging, make their financial needs well known and mobilize fundraising efforts.
But these key charities—which are indispensable in their capacity to provide immediate support in emergency situations such as natural disasters, or during the current, unprecedented health and economic crisis—often meet their fundraising targets quickly. In some cases, they become over-funded and can’t disburse funds in an efficient way, if at all. Put it down to the economic theory of diminishing marginal utility: sometimes too much of a good thing can eventually pose unforeseen challenges. One of our donors, for example, sought to give a significant gift to a large national charity to support the Fort McMurray community, which has been reeling in the wake of declining oil patch fortunes. The charity indicated they had received more funding than they could spend on that program and asked him to consider re-directing it to another one.
Given the current COVID-19 crisis, our team began brainstorming a strategy to help lesser known charities that may be facing more significant funding challenges and are not getting public attention. With that in mind, we are inviting the smaller charities across Canada to tell us about the great work you’re doing, how you’re making a difference and what kind of support you need as we march deeper into this unprecedented emergency. We want to share your stories and showcase the ways that you and your volunteers are making an impact on the local, provincial or national stage.
Then, we plan to share those stories through direct communications, our blog and social media and will invite you to submit a grant application that we can share with interested foundation clients. We know that you’ll need all the help you can get in the coming months, if not longer, and we want to help.
So don’t delay. Message us on Facebook or contact our marketing-communications manager Chris Atchison directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share your story. We’ll share as many as possible and highlight your outstanding work to boost awareness.
These may be challenging times, but with a bit of creativity and determination, we can make sure that organizations of all sizes across the charity sector continue to receive the financial support to deliver the programs and assistance that is so desperately needed.
Denise Castonguay, Executive Director and CEO