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Montreal non-profits hope for generosity before holidays after COVID-19 cut fundraising events

Click to play video 'Montreal-area charities struggle during pandemic' Montreal-area charities struggle during pandemic
WATCH: After Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday. Following the days where people are encouraged to spend money, Giving Tuesday encourages people to help a cause that's close to their heart. With non-profits having cancelled almost all their big fundraising events due to COVID-19, some of the most generous organizations in the city are asking for your generosity. Global’s Dan Spector Reports – Dec 1, 2020

After all that Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Giving Tuesday, a day that encourages you to help a cause that’s important to you.

With non profits having cancelled almost all their major fundraising events due to COVID-19, some of the most generous organizations in the city are asking for your generosity this year.

Thirty-year-old Ashlie Frank is a happy, healthy young woman now, but just last year, she wasn’t sure she would make it out of her 20s.

“Last year in January, I was diagnosed with rectal cancer as well as thyroid cancer,” she explained.

Along with the heavy physical toll the battle with the disease took on her, she was completely overwhelmed mentally. That’s where the West Island Cancer Wellness Centre helped. It offers free programs for cancer patients.

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“Anything from cooking, massage therapy, exercise,” Frank said. “It helped me feel self-empowered to take a little more control back from the cancer.”

Programs cost money, however, and this year has been a difficult one for fundraising. The usual galas, golf tournaments and other events have all been cancelled because of COVID-19.

“It’s been tough during this whole year. It’s been extremely tough,” said West Island Cancer Wellness Centre Development Director Maggie Costa.

The Wellness Centre is one of 40 organizations supported by West Island Community Shares.

“We’ve lost a lot of our donors because all of a sudden they are in a precarious situation and they can’t donate this year,” said Sophie McCann, director of West Island Community Shares.

Her organization relies heavily on fundraising events like their annual breakfast, which was cancelled this year.

“We have donors that only give to us when they attend an event, either by paying the ticket or the live auction or the silent auction. So when we don’t have events like that, we’re missing opportunities to reach out to those donors,” she explained.

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Even with fundraising shortfalls, organizations like women’s homeless shelter Chez Doris are seeing an increased need for their services.

“Since March, we’ve seen close to 700 different women who are in situations of homelessness, whereby a quarter of them are newly homeless,” said Marina Boulos-Winton, Chez Doris executive director.

Chez Doris will now be open 24 hours a day until March 31. Hiring new staff, implementing new programs, housing over 60 women, it all costs money.

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“At least 70 per cent of our budget comes from public donations. This year we’re depending more on public donations. Half of our budget typically comes in the month of December, just before Christmas,” Boulos-Winton explained.

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McCann offers some Giving Tuesday advice.

“People should start looking at donation the same way that they look at their investments. They should study it. They should look and make sure that they give to a cause that speaks to them, that they can relate to, but also do a little bit of homework,” she said.

For the now-pregnant Ashlie, the choice is clear.

“I would highly encourage you to donate to the Wellness Centre,” she said.

McCann says to make sure the organization you give to is well-managed and helps a lot of people. If you have the means, she advises picking a few organizations you really believe in.