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March 5, 2021

By Megan Ross

Since the beginning of the pandemic last March, many charities have experienced an increased demand for their services in support of their communities and the groups they are serving, and a decrease in charitable donations.

At the extreme, some charities have had to close their doors permanently, leaving vulnerable populations with less support.

We wanted to gage Canadians’ ability to support one another during the pandemic, during a time of such severe loss and isolation, and see what causes matter to them the most.

Here is what we found: 

1.Canadians care deeply about our communities. We like to give back through more than just donations. But the pandemic has left us with more challenges of our own and it has impacted how we give back.

Nearly 60% of Canadians report that prior to the pandemic they typically donate to a charity each year – another 21% normally do volunteer work with a charity.

But when the pandemic hit the past year, support for charities shifted. About half of Canadians find themselves still able to donate the same amount as they normally would to a charity, but a third say they have had to donate less since the beginning of the pandemic. Not surprisingly, with the health and safety of being in public and lockdowns across the country, 60% say they are volunteering less for charities.

There are many contributing factors for the decline we are seeing in charitable donations and volunteering, the most common being Canadians struggling financially – loss of jobs and income. The traditional notion of in-person volunteering is challenging, with health and safety concerns for virus transmission and lockdowns across the country. Those in lower income brackets are exhibiting a decline in charitable donations more so than others. Donations to a charity has decreased 8-points more for those in lower income brackets.

2.  Despite the decrease in donations of time and money, a large majority believe the need for charitable donates in the county has soared as a result of the pandemic.

58% say the need for charitable donations in Canada has increased as a result of the pandemic. One in two say this includes the need for charitable donations in their community – a higher portion of those living in rural locations are seeing this increase.

 

There has been considerable coverage of the impacts of the pandemic in the news – sometimes it seems that’s all we see. We hear about populations and groups that are worse off than ourselves or going through similar experiences as our own.

When asked what groups they feel the pandemic has impacted the most, nearly all Canadians said the elderly. This sentiment grows substantially among older Canadians – many of whom have likely had had first-hand experience through a parent or loved one.

There is no doubt that our frontline workers have worked tirelessly since the start of the pandemic – 70% of Canadians feeling they were among the most impacted by the pandemic.

Vulnerable populations, like those living in poverty, victims of abuse (like children and women), and people living with disabilities were also among the top ranked groups impacted by the pandemic.

Canadians who self-reported as belonging to a visible minority are far more likely to feel that those who are unemployed, shift or gig workers, Indigenous Peoples and those belonging to a visible minority were among the most impacted by the pandemic.

3. It’s clear that Canadians see the pandemic impacting a diverse group of people and its often dependent on one’s own lived experience. So where do we think we should support is needed the most?

Health care and hospitals, and food banks are a no brainer – tied for the most important charities or relief funds to support during this difficult time and about 60% of Canadians agree. Following closely behind is the need to support those in vulnerable communities, like the elderly, low income, visible minorities, and Indigenous communities.

A topic covered frequently in the news- mental health- has become a deep concern.  Many being isolated from friends and family, experiencing job loss and struggling to pay bills during the pandemic. Nearly half of Canadians believe that supporting charities or relief funds for mental health initiatives are important.

The homeless population has been at an increased risk of exposure to the virus, and reports of homeless shelters closing their doors permanently have been in the news. A third of Canadians find that charities focusing on our homeless population are important to support.

Canadians are well aware of the struggles faced by fellow Canadians since the start of the pandemic and are willing to admit just how much some of these groups need support, now more than ever. But lockdowns have been prevalent in many provinces, making in-person donations and volunteer work difficult regardless of how much demand has increased.

When it comes to financial donations, not all charities have innovated their methods and have fallen behind in their ability to collect donations.

Many charities have moved their operations to an online or virtual format, and have enabled donations to be made online. Others have allowed for volunteers to participate virtually or in outdoor settings that follow health and safety guidelines.

Will this shift to and online/virtual approach be enough to restore previously lost revenue that the beginning of the pandemic brought? How can charities, who often faced budgetary struggles before the pandemic, still support groups amidst a surge in demand?

And finally, have the emergency funds available through the federal government to help charities in supporting vulnerable populations during the pandemic done enough?

THE UPSHOT

According to Megan Ross: Canadians are well aware of how the pandemic has disrupted the lives of many and increased struggles that were already there. As Canadians, we work hard to support ourselves and one another, and we want to be there in times of need. This has been apparent in the tireless work by our frontline workers, and those who have been able to set aside funds to donate to their charity of choice.

There is no doubt that Canadian charities need our help. They have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic, with diminishing support and a rise in demand for their services. In some cases, they are struggling to keep their doors open.

Canadians recognize the importance of charities, especially given the amount of support many have needed during this time. But we aren’t able to support others the way we were before the pandemic.

As Canadians, we need to support our charities where and when we can. And charities should be reassured that Canadians have not forgotten about their important role in our communities but ensure they are looking for more ways to connect with donors, so they are ready to reengage when donors are ready.

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 29, 2021 to February 3, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.

ABOUT ABACUS DATA

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Find out more about what we are doing to help clients respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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METHODOLOGY

Our survey was conducted online with 2,000 Canadians aged 18 and over from January 29 to February 3, 2021. A random sample of panellists was invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This poll was conducted and paid for by Abacus Data.

Good Decisions Require Good Data.