The benefits of a family foundation during a time of crisis
How the world has changed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve gone from record stock market highs to catastrophic lows. We’ve seen near-full employment replaced by twenty-fold year-over-year EI applications. Domestic and international business has ground to a halt to prevent further global spread of the illness. And yet, through it all, we’re seeing Canada Gives’ Foundation clients stepping up to make a difference in their communities and beyond.
First, a general point about philanthropists: they find a way to give back in virtually any situation. When a disaster strikes (the hurricane that ravaged the Bahamas last year being a perfect example) or a cause must be advanced, they find a way to step up to support their charity or non-profit of choice. Their passion, dedication and determination to succeed is relentless. They see a challenge as an opportunity to transform a terrible situation into one for hope and renewal. They see tragedy and find reasons for optimism, if only through their tireless support and fundraising efforts. They are a lifeline in a time of need.
And, right now, their work is more important than ever.
Consider this dire forecast in a recent CNN story, referring to the uphill battle facing American charities:
Unless government, funders and non-profit leaders take immediate and decisive action, many non-profits around the nation may just disappear over the next few months leaving those they serve and employ in disastrous circumstances.
Or, this prediction on the weakened state of charities in the United Kingdom from Civilsociety.co.uk:
Sector bodies estimate that charities will miss out on at least £4.3bn of income over the coming 12 weeks, though the figure could be far higher. This means that from next week some will be unable to continue operating and others will begin making redundancies.
While the situation in Canada may differ (and prove more positive), we frankly don’t know how the world is going to be restructured in the coming weeks and months thanks to an invisible threat—a novel coronavirus—that none of us can control. But what we can do is to mitigate the potential impact on our most vulnerable social groups and our most important causes. And right now, because many Canada Gives donors have robust family foundations and well-established charitable relationships, they’re able to be proactive and make an immediate difference in the midst of this transformative crisis.
How? Foundations are an effective and efficient tool to quickly channel funding to a charity. Because we manage the full administrative burden and tax reporting requirements that pertain to charitable giving, our foundation clients are free to spend more time navigating the philanthropic landscape, assessing which organizations need their help, then acting accordingly to make their presence felt. This can be a painstaking process, but our client service team is on-hand to aid in the charity vetting process—in particular when assessing in-bound grant applications—to help a philanthropist make decisions based on the foundation’s core values and vision statement.
In the midst of an unprecedented crisis, speed and effective distribution can mean the difference between a charity’s demise or survival. Already we’re hearing stories in the media (as noted above) of some non-profits and charities struggling to make ends meet as donations dry up given the current economic turmoil. As the COVID-19 social distancing regulations inevitably become far stricter, we can expect a further tightening of funds that normally make their way into the charity sector—and that includes both corporate and personal gifts.
Unfortunately, if it comes to feeding your family or keeping your organization solvent, or supporting a favoured cause, the former two priorities will always take precedence.
That’s where our donors have an advantage. Having built and maintained relationships—and because many are very actively involved with their favourite charities, in some cases even lending their time to provide day-to-day operational support—and having a flexible foundation structure from which to disburse funds, they can assess operational needs and make grants without delay. Given the severity of the current situation, flexibility and adaptability on the part of benefactors will be critical to many charities’ survival and success.
So, at a time when good news is in short order and normally sunny headlines are shrouded in dark clouds, let’s take solace in the fact that our philanthropists are still very active and engaged in their charitable missions. We may be facing unprecedented hurdles, but overwhelming generosity is still the best remedy to overcome each one.
Denise Castonguay, Executive Director and CEO