indicatorThe Owl

Charitable sector struggling

The results of a recent Imagine Canada survey of charities show that the pandemic has eroded revenue, forced layoffs and reduced volunteering.

By 21 May 2020 1 min read

The over 170,000 registered charities and nonprofit organizations in Canada form an important part of both our economy and society. As with businesses, government bodies, social groups, families and individuals, the pandemic has disrupted the day-to-day operations and economic fortunes of the charitable sector.

The results of a recent Imagine Canada survey* of 1,458 registered charities with annual revenues of $30,000 (excluding religious congregations) show that the pandemic has eroded revenue, forced layoffs and reduced volunteering. What’s more, the damage is worse than in 2008/09 when the Great Recession was in play.

While the sector has risen to the challenge by, for example, providing more services online and creating new programs, “the pandemic is significantly damaging the financial and human health of our organizations.”

“Revenues have declined an average of 30.6 per cent since the onset of the pandemic, with 69 per cent of charities reporting decreased revenues.” About three in four charities reported lower revenue from donations.

On the human resources front, “30 per cent of charities have already laid off staff and 55 per cent say new or additional layoffs are a possibility [and] 33 per cent say volunteers are less available.”

Although the impact of the pandemic varies across organizations—with 6 per cent experiencing an increase in revenue—the overall picture is of a sector in financial distress.

“While cancelling or reducing programs that involve direct interpersonal contact in order to reduce the spread of the virus is extremely common, the relatively small number of charities cancelling programs due to lack of demand speaks to the continued need for the services charities offer. In this context, it is extremely concerning that nearly one in five has suspended or ceased their operations.”

As with other parts of the economy, it will take both time and effort to reverse these negative effects. To this end, the passion and dedication of the sector’s workforce and leaders will be critical, as will the support of both current and future donors and volunteers.

*The survey was conducted between April 15 and April 28, 2020.

Revenues have declined an average of 30.6 per cent since the onset of the pandemic

Revenues have declined an average of 30.6 per cent since the onset of the pandemic.


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