Shortly after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11th, much of the world went into overdrive. In Canada, in quick succession, infection numbers spiked, major sports were cancelled, schools were closed, businesses were limited and then many shut down, and mass layoffs began. For charities, as many of us have heard by now, fundraising events were cancelled and many sources of revenue dried up, while the need for critical services such as food banks, seniors’ programs, and mental health increased dramatically.
At CanadaHelps, our rapid switch to becoming a virtual office was happening at the same time as we realized we needed to quickly put supports in place for our charity partners. Our whole team responded quickly to help thousands of charities across Canada adapt — through helping charities new to online fundraising set up donation forms for the first time; creating resources on hosting virtual fundraising events and other COVID-related topics; helping charities launch hundreds of campaigns to fundraise for their COVID-19 response; and joining with our sector colleagues to advocate for support for the charitable sector during this time.
One thing we did that I am especially proud of is launch our two COVID-19 Cause Funds. The Funds enable Canadians to easily support hundreds of COVID-19 response campaigns with a single gift (and with the confidence that their gift is going to the right place), ensuring critical donations are quickly reaching food banks, hospitals, seniors’ facilities, shelters, and more. Our team worked late nights and through weekends to build these two funds – reviewing hundreds of individual campaigns submitted by charities, building landing pages, creating graphics, and developing new financial and data processes to ensure we could transfer funds raised weekly. We were even more thrilled to have worked with our friends at Gore Mutual Foundation who have provided $2 million in matching dollars for these two Funds. To date, the Funds have raised $1.5 million, which will be doubled by Gore Mutual Foundation, and continue to grow.
We’ve also had generous corporate and business support from organizations such as Charmin and Amgen Canada Inc, who have made generous donations to these Funds and which we were able to facilitate offline and without fees so we could get more donations directly to our charity partners. What’s more, businesses across the country have been committing portions of their sales to these two important Funds.
We previously soft-launched our Cause Funds last fall, and have more Cause-based Funds planned for this spring, but we never anticipated the power that they would have to support hundreds of organizations in a crisis. We know from research that many Canadians, especially younger donors, are less connected to individual institutions and more invested in supporting causes; they are also often looking for ways to act immediately (and picking an organization to support from the 86,000 charities we have in this country can be discouraging for some). As well, with a crisis like the one we are in now, the needs are so immense and so wide-ranging that we’re finding Canadians are excited about having ways to support many charities at once.
Of course, not every charity that has been hurt by COVID-19 met the criteria for these Funds. We know there are thousands more charities in Canada that need support due to the devastating economic impacts of this crisis, and we are continuing to push ahead to drive more charitable giving, create opportunities for charities to engage their donors, and provide charities with resources and support so they can optimize their online fundraising. We’re also exploring future funds and ways to highlight campaigns for charities that need support for their ongoing operations so they can weather this storm.
We’ve been blown away by the generosity of Canadians in the last month, and hope those who can give will continue to do so. But as data from our Giving Report shows, generosity in times of crisis eventually wanes. As a charity ourselves, and like all Canadians, we are nervous about the economic impact this virus will have. In the last recession, overall charitable giving dropped by approximately $1.4 billion, and individual donation rates continue to decline. The economic damage we are seeing now is likely to be far worse than in 2008, and we’ll be in a tight spot: many Canadians will have less to give, but many more Canadians will need the support of charities to get through this.
In times of crisis and beyond, we are here for Canadian charities and we will always act only in their best interest. We know that Canada needs charities, and we all need each other. Canadians across our nation will rely on the support of charities in the upcoming times more than ever and we will do our part to help make sure that support continues.