It may be a struggle to find joy this holiday season due to the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, but on Giving Tuesday — a day celebrating the hard work of organizations giving back to their local communities — staff and volunteers at those organizations continue to work hard, despite the extra challenges of 2020.
Lys Hugessen of Giving Tuesday Canada told Global News 2020 is the eighth year the event — which is celebrated in 70 countries — has taken place in Canada.
“The pandemic has been devastating for charities — cancelled events, reduced revenues for all kinds of reasons and at the same time increased need,” said Hugessen.
“At the same time, we’re seeing people responding with unprecedented generosity — since the start of the pandemic acts of kindness… and also donations. Canadians have really been stepping up.”
Jennifer Campbell, CEO of Special Olympics Manitoba, told Global News that her organization has had to completely re-think its fundraising strategy, as the pandemic has led to the cancellation of its annual marquee events — all of which raise funds for athletes with intellectual disabilities.
“Our spring fundraising is really our busiest time of year — that’s typically when our events have been, so we had to cancel quickly our Winnipeg Wine Festival and a couple of golf tournaments,” said Campbell. “For us, that was over half a million dollars of revenue that was suddenly gone.
“We went into survival mode if you will, trying to provide something for our athletes, but with keeping our cash flow going.
“It’s an 18-month reality that we can’t fundraise the way we have been. So absolutely, we’re looking at online and virtual alternatives. We’ve had phenomenal support from our corporate partners to make sure we are doing OK.”
Campbell’s organization isn’t alone in facing an unprecedented struggle to raise funds during an uncertain time.
The Salvation Army, which can typically be seen each holiday season with volunteers collecting donations in the traditional kettles, has also had to undergo a change to account for the pandemic — something that has caused an increased need, as well.
“We are faced with one of the most difficult periods experienced in our generation, and it’s a time when hopelessness has become a real concern,” said Maj. Jamie Rands of the charity’s Prairie Division.
“The Salvation Army aims to provide that hope, we aim to provide that dignity to those we serve every day and we know lives can and will be transformed through the dollars that come through the kettle campaign.
“At this point, we are obviously starting in a very low position, just not being able to have the people out there, standing on the kettles. It drums up so much attention for this fundraising program. The inability to do that right now certainly will hinder us.”
Rands said the Salvation Army is looking to raise $385,000 in Winnipeg alone this year — part of a $23 million national goal — and while it might be tough sledding, Canadians’ generosity will likely save the day once again.
“I think our work at the Salvation Army is more critical than ever and we implore anyone who can help us to give as they can,” he said.
Megan Tate, director of community grants at the Winnipeg Foundation, said she thinks COVID-19 is making many Winnipeggers appreciate the charitable sector and all it does for people in need in this city.
The Winnipeg Foundation has been providing a number of grants in response to COVID-19-related community needs, and Tate said the number of applications it received exceeded expectations — with double the number of requests and triple the dollar amount.
“Manitobans are the most generous donors in the country and so what we are hearing is that Christmas is going to be a bit different this year.
“There are lots of conversations amongst families how they can give a bit differently this year, and (how they can) think about the charitable sector in terms of being able to support them in the work they do.”
–With files from Amber McGuckin