"“The minute the pandemic was announced by WHO, my inbox started to fill with tips for charities and fundraising organizations on how to deal with the challenges ahead,” said Jennifer Laurie, Development Officer for the Family and Children's Services Foundation.
Laurie described the last few days as a “double whammy” with the COVID-19 situation and its effects on the stock markets in Canada and the U.S.
“While COVID-19 and social distancing will have an immediate impact on charitable giving, the economic situation is perhaps of greater long-term concern to the sector,” added Laurie. “It took seven years for giving to return to pre-2008 levels after the last crash.”
Charitable organizations that rely on events to raise funds are some of the most in need right now. Looking ahead to when the situation wanes, Laurie fears that social distancing could have an impact on event attendance for months or even years to come.
The foundation is focused on the prevention of child abuse and neglect and supports families to care safely for their children at home. “Many of the families we serve will be deeply impacted by the economic aspects of this situation,” Laurie said.
Parents who are unable to work will have income issues but also the social isolation that goes with it. In addition, school closures have caused issues with finding safe and affordable childcare. Laurie noted that social isolation and financial need are risk factors for child abuse and neglect. “Families should not be at risk of having their children come into foster care because these circumstances mean they cannot pay their rent or feed their children,” she said.
For Peter Sweeney, CEO of the YMCAs of Cambridge & Kitchener-Waterloo, there are three priorities during the COVID-19 situation. “First, how do we support our staff through this? Second, how do we continue to show up for the community and provide support? Third, how do we do all of this and be financially stable?”
Sweeney and YMCA team have committed to paying their staff through the current three-week shutdown. “It’s the right thing to do,” added Sweeney.
When it comes to showing up in a time of social isolation, the YMCAs are looking at ways to serve their community virtually. “We’re a people-focused organization and delivering virtually is not our expertise,” Sweeney said.
On Monday, I was on a video call with Sweeney and some of the team from Vidyard and Google Waterloo. Hitting the ground running, the group quickly worked through what immediate needs existed and how the tech community could assist.
Using a mix of technology from Vidyard and Google, Sweeney expects to have a Virtual Y set up within a week. The site, which is currently a COVID-19 info page, will be called thisisy.ca.
“The support has been great - and inspiring,” added Sweeney. “Our staff are saying, ‘Hey, I can do a video about this or that’ and are using this time to create content. It’s new avenues of connecting with people.”
Sweeney pointed out that this first iteration will be more function than form. More important, it’s a way for the community to see that they are not closing up shop.
Post COVID-19 closures, Sweeney and the Y team are focused on reopening. “It’s not going to be the same. We’re going to need people to come back to the Y. Social distancing – social disconnecting…..that’s our fear. We’re checking in with people and when we can be physically together again, we’re going to work to get that human connection back.”
Sweeney’s advice on how to help right now: “Just call or email your favourite charity and ask how you can help them continue to serve.”
Many companies in town have quickly moved their staff to a work-from-home model. On the surface, this has gone smoothly. But for some women in our community, work from home can be a threat to their safety.
“Women could be at home with an abusive partner and when stress levels are up, domestic violence may increase,” said Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region. For many women in abusive relationships, work can be a refuge. Not just for women who work, but for those who stay home when their partners go to work.
Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region runs two shelters in our community, Anselma House in Kitchener and Haven House in Cambridge. Hutton noted that Anselma House is currently full and Haven House has a few spaces open. “We’re focused on maintaining our essential services,” added Hutton. They have put in measures to protect their staff including limiting visitors and symptom screenings. “We’ve had to stop some of the programming that we normally do that’s run by external facilitators including music therapy and trauma yoga.”
“This is a time to be very agile,” Hutton said. Like all of us, Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region is dealing with new info all the time and finding ways to adapt. “These are unprecedented times. We’re making decisions quickly and trying to do the right thing.”
Thirty per cent of Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region’s operating budget comes from donations. A majority of this is from events in the community. “We have a Mother’s Day event planned, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
Women's Crisis Services of Waterloo Region is always looking for donations and people to host postponed events again. “What really helps us right now is following us on social media and spreading the word,” said Hutton. “We have an informed, caring community and we want people to know our services in the event we see an uptake in women seeking our services after these restrictions are removed.”
So, what can you do now to help? Jennifer Laurie offers this list:
- Continue to support the charities that matter to you. If you are able to increase your gift or to give to an additional charity, then do so. Other ways to help would include sharing social media messaging and promoting causes you care about to friends and family.
- Become a monthly donor. Consistent revenue is a simple and convenient way that donors can support their favourite charities. Turn your weekly take-out coffees and lunches into something more impactful by making a monthly gift.
- If you choose not to attend an event or an event is cancelled, consider not asking for a refund on your ticket. Instead offer it as a gift to the cause you care about.
- Look for creative ways to continue to raise funds for your favourite cause. Family and Children’s Services uses Canada Helps for online donations. They offer easy ways for people to raise money as a group or individual.
- Consider making a gift in honour of a special someone. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and graduations are just around the corner. A gift to a charity in the name of your loved one is a beautiful way to recognize life events.
You can also use our Communitech Giving Guide to find other ways to give back – today and after we’re back to normal.
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While we're in social distancing mode, I see and hear that....you should wash your hands for 20 seconds."