By Owen Charters (CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada) and Peter Dinsdale (CEO, YMCA Canada).
*originally published in The Hill Times
Charitable organizations in Canada have always been front-line workers, helping the country’s most vulnerable populations. Our role in the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed—except that those vulnerable populations have grown exponentially.
The federal government is helping. Wage subsidies and a recently announced $350-million emergency fund are helping nonprofits meet increased demands today. But the economic downturn we are experiencing requires a long-term solution.
A stabilization fund for the non-profit sector is the answer.
Imagine Canada projects the pandemic will reduce charity and non-profit revenues by as much as $15-billion, with more than 100,000 layoffs. The statistics are grim. Approximately 70 per cent of charitable organizations are reporting a decline in revenues. Two-fifths have already laid off paid staff or reduced working hours. And Statistics Canada reported that job losses related to the non-profit sector are approximately 1.4 times higher than other sectors.
Emergency funding is helping non-profits function at limited capacity, but we are looking to the future. Our revenue is not dependent on the demands of clients—in fact, the more Canadians that show up at our doors, the more expenses we incur. Meanwhile, our revenue streams—individual donors, major gifts, fee-for-service programs, corporate partners—have turned to a trickle in reaction to plummeting profits.
As physical distancing measures relax, the demands will be greater—more people will be out of work and more will be looking for the programs and services offered by organizations like YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs. And when that happens, we will need support.
YMCAs deliver services and programs to more than two million Canadians. This support will play a crucial role in the country’s economic and social recovery, including employment and training, immigration and settlement services, youth programs, housing, programs for healthy living and well-being, and early learning and childcare. The organization is projecting a loss of more than $42-million over the next three months.
In 700 communities across Canada, Boys and Girls Clubs serve 200,000 young people and their families with a range of community-based services, accessible and affordable childcare, and out-of-school programs for kids and teens that promote positive outcomes in education, healthy living, physical activity, mental health, leadership, self-expression, and more. Over the next three months, the predicted shortfall will be over $6-million.
Despite this financial forecast, despite layoffs and limited resources, these two organizations are still on the front lines helping Canadians.
Boys and Girls Clubs from coast to coast are tackling food insecurity by delivering food and critical care packages to families, providing childcare for essential workers, running virtual activities for kids and teens, and operating crisis hotlines.
YMCAs, meanwhile, are also opening their facilities to protect the homeless, providing childcare for essential workers, connecting with seniors and other isolated populations, delivering employment and immigration and settlement programs by phone and online, and running virtual workshops to promote physical and mental health and wellness.
Emergency funding from the government, corporate partners, and major donors is helping these two organizations and other non-profits adapt their services to meet the rise in demand. But the sector needs more support to ensure we can be there for vulnerable populations—today and tomorrow.
Along with Imagine Canada, we continue to advocate for a Sector Resilience Grant Program—a stabilization fund of $7-billion dollars to buttress the $2.8-billion already provided by the federal government.
This stabilization fund is the only way charities across Canada will be able to keep their doors open and provide the critical services and support that help our most vulnerable—and our nation as a whole.
We are too vital to fail.
If you’d like to help, please add your voice to our advocacy efforts.