Charities look for help in face of crisis-driven losses

By 
  • April 2, 2020

Facing a steep drop in revenue due to the COVID-19 crisis, charities and non-profits are seeking a multi-billion-dollar lifeline from governments and foundations.

Imagine Canada, the industry association for charities, estimates that three months of social distancing to combat COVID-19 will cost charities $9.5 billion and result in layoffs of 117,000 charitable sector employees, most of them women. If the crisis exceeds six months, the projected losses come to $15.6 billion in lost revenue and layoffs for 194,000.

Charities have seen revenues drop off a cliff since COVID-19 sent everyone home from work in March, with fundraising events cancelled, campaigns on hold, churches empty and collection baskets collecting dust. Meetings with major donors are on hold and stock portfolios are crashing. As people are laid off, donors are cancelling or reducing their regular, planned and pledged donations.

It’s a nightmare scenario that coincides with a vast increase in demand for services from food banks to rent banks, from addiction counselling to homeless shelters, said Cardus vice president of external affairs Brian Dijkema.

Cardus, a Christian policy think tank based in Hamlton, Ont., is asking government and foundations to help Canadian charities raise $2.5 billion through a matching program similar to the humanitarian disaster funds that raised millions for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. For every dollar citizens contribute to a registered charity, Ottawa should contribute one more between April 1 and July 1, according to the Cardus plan.

“The rationale behind our proposal is stop-gap emergency funding to ensure that the organizations that are going to be drawn most heavily upon the next number of months as the economic fallout is there do not get sunk before they’re even needed,” Dijkema told The Catholic Register.

The Canadian Association of Gift Planners is reviving its call for the federal government to banish capital gains taxes on gifts of stocks or real estate to registered charities.

According to a C.D. Howe Institute report commissioned by the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, a tax holiday for capital gains for charitable donations could raise an extra $200 million a year.

This isn’t some government handout to rich people with big stock portfolios, said Canadian Association of Gift Planners vice president of education and development Paul Nazareth.

“When you look at the signatories to this initiative, quite a number come from the world of social justice. It is not the usual suspects behind an initiative like this,” Nazareth said. “Can we create more capital to do good?”

Arthur Peters, executive director of the Archdiocese of Toronto ShareLife campaign, stands behind the appeals for emergency funding for the charitable sector.

“There are more people turning to agencies for help in these times,” Peters said in an e-mail. “Anything the government can do to not only support the work of these organizations but encourage people to give, to help those working on the front lines, would be beneficial.”

People can still give to ShareLife through online donations at sharelife.org.

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