Charities grapple with fewer donations, higher demand with Christmas approaching

After a difficult year for fundraising, the charities that typically count on kindness at Christmas are bracing for yet another blow.

With demand for services up and donations down, the holiday season is critical, says Bruce MacDonald, president of Imagine Canada, a group that advocates for the country’s non-profits. About 40 per cent of all charitable giving is done around this time of year.

Read more: ‘Things are tough:’ Canadian charities struggling as coronavirus pandemic continues

Between Nov. 3 and Dec. 4, Imagine Canada surveyed 1,089 sector leaders about the impact of the pandemic. The results showed 68 per cent of charities have seen a decline in donations, while 46 per cent are reporting increased demand.

The answers were weighted based on charities’ sizes, activity area, region and principal revenue sources. The confidence interval is ± 2.9 percent.

“For our sector, it’s kind of like a double whammy,” says Bruce MacDonald, president of Imagine Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society, a member of Imagine Canada, understands why less money is coming in, “with many people facing uncertain financial times themselves,” says Paula Roberts, the organization’s executive vice-president of digital, brand marketing and communications.

“But the need for donations is as great as ever.”

Donations have dropped off by about 40 per cent this year, she estimates, which works out to about $80 million.

The cancer society, which funds both research and supports patients, has had to pivot to continue with the latter — especially important in the pandemic given that patients are immunocompromised.

Read more: Saskatoon Christmas charities, toy drives struggle during COVID-19 pandemic

Ronald McDonald House Charities has also struggled to reconcile the steady need for its services with new coronavirus protocols, says executive director Kate Horton.

“The sad reality is that children continue to become seriously ill and injured, even during a pandemic,” Horton says.

Ronald McDonald House Charities is facing a revenue decrease of around 60 per cent at the same time as new expenses, such as personal protective equipment and enhanced cleaning.

Referencing the Holiday Giving in Canada Survey conducted earlier this month by Ignite-Lab, MacDonald notes that fewer Canadians planned to donate this year. Many of those who did planned to give less.

“Knowing there are many people win their communities who can’t give the way they used to… for those who can, if there’s ever been a year to at least maintain, if not, dig a bit deeper, this is the year,” MacDonald says.

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