Demand for services will continue to rise.
Canadians are compassionate and generous. These qualities especially come to the forefront when citizens rally in response to a disaster like the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016, which prompted an outpouring of support and donations.
However, nearly two years later, local non-profit organizations are still dealing with the fallout of the event. They are looking to a disaster recovery analysis as well as the 30 Years of Giving in Canada report by Imagine Canada and the Rideau Hall Foundation for valuable insights.
“Immediately after the wildfire, we saw an amazing generosity from Canada and around the world,” says Bonnah Carey, chief social entrepreneur at FuseSocial in Wood Buffalo (Fort McMurray). Over the past 21 months, FuseSocial has surveyed the sector to gauge the state of recovery, and 95 agencies have offered insights. “Our research shows that timely access to unrestrictive operational funding is vital,” she says.
Cindy Amerongen, executive director of the Northern Lights Health Foundation serving communities in the Wood Buffalo region, says the disaster disrupted the regular fundraising activities of many non-profit organizations, impacting their capacity for providing essential services. In addition, they frequently heard, “We’ve already given,” when they approached potential donors.
“Private donations made up 38 per cent and 43 per cent of new sources of income after six and nine months after the wildfire respectively,” says Ms. Carey. “Now, 21 months later, giving from private individuals accounts for only 16 per cent.”
Ms. Carey noticed a clear difference between how financial support for the business sector and the non-profit sector was provided. “The process and criteria were more restrictive and time-consuming for non-profits,” she says. “It is important that funding is adaptive to strengthen the agencies as quickly as possible to ensure they are able to support the needs of the people who rely on their services. If our non-profits are not healthy, our communities are not healthy.”
Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, believes Canadians should not take the contributions of non-profit organizations for granted. “Many of us appreciate the ability to access mental health services, food banks, or arts and culture programs, but we also have to realize that we have to contribute, whether it’s as donors, volunteers, board members or by getting directly involved in service delivery.”
The recently released 30 Years of Giving in Canada report shows “big shifts in giving,” says Mr. MacDonald. “Our research suggests that demand for services will continue to rise and that the way those services are delivered will depend on the sustainability and financial health of the organizations providing them.”
To ensure sustainability, Mr. MacDonald suggests that charities consider broadening their donor base. “Donors over 50 now account for 74 per cent of all donations, compared to 54 per cent in 1985,” he says. “Organizations with a main donor pool that is moving into retirement and beyond have to actively engage young people as well as new Canadians, because that’s where donations will increasingly come from in the future.”
The ability to adapt will be crucial for maintaining a vibrant non-profit sector dedicated to the social good.— Bruce MacDonald president and CEO of Imagine Canada
An annual event that resonates with Canadians of different ages is the Ride Don’t Hide fundraiser, says Bev Gutray, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. “The event’s clear and strong message is part of its appeal and really speaks to the power of mission-based fundraising,” she says. “It is easy to participate in and engages different communities, cultures and faiths at a time when mental health is an issue that is top of mind for Canadians.”
Ms. Amerongen also reports multi-generational engagement. “Just about every weekend, there is some form of community fundraising going on, like walks, bike rides or pancake breakfasts for a cause where all ages are participating,” she says. “All donations of $2 in the tin or $10 at the till add up and contribute to programs and services, but charitable organizations also require consistent, planned donations to enable their long-term survival.”
Mr. MacDonald encourages Canadians to follow their passion and give where they are inspired. He also suggests they do their homework due to the large number of organizations seeking support.
“FuseSocial, the Northern Lights Health Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. are examples of non-profit organizations that are committed to being strong and adaptive for their communities. They also share a desire to earn trust from their donors,” says Mr. MacDonald. He adds that all three organizations have received accreditation from Imagine Canada’s standards program, which awards accreditation to non-profits that demonstrate good governance, transparency and accountability.
“The Canadian donation landscape is changing along with our society’s wealth distribution,” he says. “The ability to adapt will be crucial for maintaining a vibrant non-profit sector dedicated to the social good.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.