P.E.I. United Way facing fundraising shortfall

The United Way on P.E.I. is looking for new ways to reach out to potential donors in the face of a larger than usual shortfall in its fundraising this year.

Charitable giving on downward trend, Statistic Canada report suggests

The United Way of P.E.I. is currently providing funding for 17 different programs on the Island. (The United Way of P.E.I.)

The United Way on P.E.I. is looking for new ways to reach out to potential donors in the face of a larger than usual shortfall in its fundraising this year.

The organization says it needs to raise $137,000 by the end of March.

"It's a bigger gap than we're used to," said Andrea MacDonald, CEO of the United Way on P.E.I.

According to a report released this week by Statistics Canada, charitable giving is down across the country.

Islanders have traditionally been among the most generous in the country, and that hasn't changed. The Statistics Canada report shows P.E.I. has the second highest percentage of charitable donors in the country, trailing only Manitoba. But that percentage has been falling on P.E.I., as it has been across the country.

In 2012, 24.3 per cent of Island tax filers made a charitable donation. In 2016, that fell to 22 per cent. The amount of money donated was down 5.3 per cent.

Feeling the pinch

It's an issue that's having a direct impact on the work of the United Way, MacDonald said.

"We don't have one answer for what caused that," she said.

"A perception of younger generation not giving, I don't think that's true. I think the younger generation is very engaged here on P.E.I. and across the country, and generous, but younger donors tend to give smaller gifts. They might not be in a position to give larger gifts."

There does not seem to be a single answer for the drop in charitable giving, says United Way of P.E.I. CEO Andrea MacDonald. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC )

And then there is the question of charitable giving that the Statistics Canada numbers do not catch, including much of what is raised on crowdfunding sites and through the benefits that are so popular on the Island.

"I think we are seeing an increase in that type of giving amongst donors and probably even moreso in the younger generations," MacDonald said.

While these are very helpful for what are often worthy causes, money raised in that way does not tend to go towards traditional charities such as the United Way.

Connecting with donors

In response to the trend, MacDonald said the United Way is looking at building stronger relationships with potential donors.

"I think donors really want to be able to understand how their money is being used and the impact it's having on people in our communities," she said.

The challenge is that those kinds of communications campaigns can be expensive, which again drains money away from programs.

"It can be hard but I think it's really important because we want donors to feel connected to the work we're doing," MacDonald said.

That can be especially difficult for the United Way, which tends to disperse funds it raises to other charities, such as Boys and Girls Club, The Arthritis Society, and the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance. It is currently providing long-term funding for 17 different programs.

About the Author

Kevin Yarr

Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. You can reach him at kevin.yarr@cbc.ca.