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Philanthropy, pandemic and political scandal: COVID-19 curtails donor giving; WE affair weakens trust in charities

As it has done to nearly every facet of Canadian life, the coronavirus pandemic is also ravaging crucial health programs and social services provided by Canada’s charitable organizations as individual donors face tough spending choices.

At a time when many say the need for the help and services Canada’s roughly 86,000 registered charities offer is greater than ever, a new public opinion survey from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute – in partnership with Cardus, Charitable Impact, Imagine Canada, Philanthropic Foundations Canada, United Way, and Canada Helps– finds Canadian donors giving less than they were before the pandemic. Nearly two-in-five (37%) Canadians who have donated to at least one charity in the last two years say their donations have decreased since March, when COVID-19 first gripped the nation.

Given that individual Canadian donors gave $10 billion to charities in 2018 (the last year for which data is available) – this decrease in giving represents hundreds of millions – if not billions – of lost dollars for such organizations.

In addition, the lingering after-effects of the WE Charity Scandal appear to be compounding the crisis. The organization may be winding down operations in Canada (per its announcement last week), but the blast radius extends far beyond that charity’s fortunes.

Indeed, the poll finds a majority of donors of the opinion that the scandal is one that raises questions about governance, transparency, and management that are relevant for the whole charitable sector, while significant segments of donors say it has changed the way they feel about donating to charity overall.

Against this backdrop, there is a desire to see the federal government find ways to support the charitable organizations facing massive losses. Overwhelming majorities support measures such as donation matching and direct grants to alleviate shortfalls and encourage Canadians to give again.

More Key Findings:

  • A majority of Canadians from across the donor spectrum – from those who do not give at all to those who have made this a major part of their life – say that the WE scandal is a serious issue
  • Those who donate the most, categorized as Super Donors, are least likely to feel that the WE ordeal is a symptom of a broader problem with large Canadian charities. That said, half (55%) still say that it is
  • Four-in-five Canadians say they prefer donating to smaller local charities as opposed to larger organizations that operate nationally


Read the rest of the story here: www.angusreid.org

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