Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday December 17, 2020
A COVID Christmas can still be a giving time
Christmas is traditionally the biggest time for giving in Canada, but in this pandemic year that almost certainly won’t be the case.
Burdened by COVID-19-related financial stresses, fewer Canadians will be donating to charities this year, and many of those who do will offer less. At the same time, the pandemic has piled new responsibilities on top of the already burdensome workloads of many of the country’s charities that do everything from supporting the homeless to funding hospitals and vital medical research.
We’re not trying to make the year more depressing than it’s already been, but for the country’s charities, these conditions have created the perfect storm. And those fortunate Canadians who are still able to give to others should be aware of this.
They should listen to Bruce MacDonald, chief executive of Imagine Canada which works to support other charities across the land.
“The crisis is of a scale that we’ve not seen before,” he says, and his organization’s research backs his warning. No less than 68 per cent of Canadian charities have reported a drop in donations since the pandemic began. That translates into a massive, 30.6-per-cent decline in overall charitable revenues and possible losses of between $4.2 billion and $6.3 billion heading into a new year.
Hundreds of charities have already closed in 2020, even as 46 per cent of organizations in the sector told Imagine Canada that demands for their services have risen. Without a quick — and as yet unforeseen — turnaround, more charities will be forced to close while others will lay off staff and cut back the services they provide.
The public may not quickly notice some of these changes, even if they eventually prove profound. While there are close to 90,000 registered charities in the country, most are small, with budgets less $500,000 and are mainly run by volunteers. But the public might be surprised by some of the big-name charities have suffered a major hit.
The Globe and Mail recently reported that donations to the Canadian Cancer Society plunged by 70 per cent or $70 million this year while Cystic Fibrosis Canada had to cut 10 of its 69 staff members after what is expected to be a $6-million drop in its revenues.
Givings to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada fell by $13.5 million, just over 20 per cent, while after reducing its own operating costs by 30 per cent, the hard-hit United Way of Calgary is warning the organizations it supports that its funding to them could fall by the same amount.
Yes, the challenge facing the nation’s charities is grim. It’s not about numbers, either; it’s about people and social well-being. But it makes no sense to try to guilt every Canadian into stepping up because so many can’t.
Just 51 per cent of Canadians recently surveyed by Imagine Canada said they intend to make charitable donations this holiday season, a steep drop from the 62 per cent who answered in the affirmative in 2014. Thirty-six per cent of those who do plan to give say they will give less and the reason is often the same — the pandemic’s financial fallout.
So where does that leave Canada in this supposed season of giving? Whatever upheaval this year has brought, millions of Canadians have survived COVID-19 unscathed, their incomes and lifestyles untouched by the coronavirus. That’s also a fact.
To them we would say first: Consider the urgent, diverse and pervasive needs all around you. Then, we would simply add: Please remember your means. (Globe & Mail)
“MacKay’s point is more interesting. I might have avoided the red kettle, since Sally Ann gets criticized for mixing religion and charity, but it’s a recognizable symbol and the point remains that, if you can buy for your friends and family, you can help those without either.”